Thursday, November 17, 2011

Album Retrospective: Say Anything - In Defense of The Genre

Album Rating: A+
Autobiographical music is usually relatable but never really unique. When an artist says they are releasing an "autobiographical album" we usually assume this means a "themed album" filled with songs about ten themes we are supposed to believe are unique. Instead of making an album that is actually autobiographical, artists often contaminate or brains with mainstreamed views on rather serious topics. We know that "Love Hurts," we all are trying not to be an "American Idiot," and we are probably all doing it for the "Single Ladies." While these albums and songs might be relatable and enjoyable, they are the furthest thing from actually be autobiographical. The relatable autobiography is nothing more than something we are supposed to believe is the artist story so we will buy their record. The unique autobiography actually has to have "No Soul."

Which is why I was always interested in Max Bemis autobiographical magnum opus known as In Defense of The Genre. I always thought that Bemis might be crazy and apathetic enough to make a genuine autobiographical experience. Even though Bemis music was always relatable it was also always unique to his story. "Every Man Has A Molly," "Alive With The Glory of Love," and "Admit It" were all great relatable songs that fit in perfectly with Max's unique story. He took three years off after the brilliant ...Is A Real Boy to create a double album that properly defined his life and his struggle. In Defense of The Genre is not only an album that defines Bemis, but is also an album that actually defines a genre. In Defense of The Genre is not only an album that defines Bemis life, but is also an album that can define your life if you allow it to. It not only has 27 great songs but 27 great stories, it is not only 27 great stories but 27 different feelings, and it is not only one of the best albums of 2007 but one of the best albums of its decade.

The first thing that makes In Defense of The Genre the perfect autobiographical album is that the themes of the songs are relatable while still being unique to Max's story. For example "That Is Why" mentions Bemis being bipolar but he sings about it in a song that deals with breaking up with a girl, "Died A Jew" might be about Bemis's religious struggle but he also throws in a few jokes and pop culture references to keep us interested, "Sorry Dudes. My Bad." might be about his drug addiction but he has lyrics and guests that make the story interesting and worthwhile. The second disc features more of the same: "Vexed" might be about one of Max's failed relationships but he keeps us interested with his brilliant wordplay, "Hangover Song" might be about Bemis feeling worthless after a drunken night out but almost all of us can relate to the feeling worthless the morning after a big night out on the town, "The Truth Is, You Should Lie About Me" might be about confusion and frustration in Bemis sex life but the song sounds like the anthem to all of our failed relationships. Bemis also uses guest appearances to give the album a more personal feel. Instead of just being the rantings and ravings of Bemis, the album has tons of guest appearances from some of the biggest names of the industry. The appearances are done so effectively that they seem to be adding a personal feel to the albums story instead of just adding to the albums "street cred." The guest appearances make the album seem like it is for all of us instead of just being for Bemis. Using clever wordplay, jokes, pop culture references, and guest vocalists, Bemis creates an autobiographical album that is relatable and unique.

Another thing that makes In Defense of The Genre the perfect autobiographical album is that while it is describing the life of Bemis, it has a song for just about everyone. Even though the album has twenty-seven songs not one song sounds the same. The album has ballads, club sounding songs, religious songs, hard rock songs, pop-punk songs, metal songs, and acoustic songs. Instead of focusing on defining one genre and one life, Bemis makes sure he attempts to define just about every genre and touch on just about every important topic so the listener feels included in the album. It is why "Skinny Mean Men" is a classic hard rocking song and "That Is Why" is a great almost jazzy type of song, it is why "Shiska (Girlfriend)" is a great punk single but "Baby Girl, I'm A Blur" is something you would dance to in a nightclub, it is why "Plea" is a fantastic love song but "Vexed" is a fascinating break up song, it is why "About Falling" sounds like a bad attempt at a grunge song (which is kind of a good thing) but "Spay Me" sounds almost like a Green Day type of gothic singalong, and it is why "In Defense of The Genre" sounds like a metal song and "Died A Jew" sounds like something out of Weird Al's catalog. With In Defense of The Genre, Bemis creates the perfect autobiography for himself and for anyone who likes just about any type of music. And "That Is Why" In Defense of The Genre is the perfect autobiographical album.

The final reason why In Defense of The Genre is such an exhilarating experience is the quality of material on both discs. It is not only tough to find a bad song on here, it is also tough to find a song that is not excellent. "No Soul" is one of the catchiest songs on the first discs and features one of the more effective guest appearances on the entire album, "That Is Why" is probably the most unique song Say Anything has ever done and also one of the best, "Shiska (Girlfriend)" might be the catchiest song I have ever heard, and "An Insult To The Dead" sounds like the sinister sequel to ....Is A Real Boy "I Want To Know Your Plans." On the second disc "Spay Me" is a classic "f--- you" punk song, "Spores" is genius in its genuineness, "The Word You Wield" is the hard rock anthem Say Anything had never been able to make, and "Goodbye Young Tutor, You've Now Outgrown Me" is one of the few times Bemis has been able to create a song that was heartbreaking rather than narcissistic.

But In Defense of The Genre's brilliance is mainly found in how openly narcissistic Bemis is. He wants you to know about his struggles, his pain, his lost loves, his happiness, and his faith but he wants to present it to you in a number of quality ways that are equally mind blowing and intriguing. Using clever lyrics, different sounds, and different stories Bemis creates an album that is not only an autobiography for him but also for anyone that happens to be listening. Bemis not only defines and defends the genre of pop-punk, but he creates an album that has the potential to define the youthful ignorance and exuberance of your life. The massiveness of In Defense of The Genre makes it not only the best album in Say Anything's stacked catalog but the most unique and relatable "autobiographical" album you will ever listen to. Bemis has not only made a classic album, he has finally found a good use for narcissism. And it only took 2007 years.......


1. "Skinny, Mean Man" Pete Yorn 3:33
2. "No Soul" (contains a portion of the composition "Juicy Fruit", originally written by James Mtume; features DJ Swamp on turntables) Anna Waronker 3:36
3. "That Is Why" 4:13
4. "Surgically Removing the Tracking Device" Adam Lazzara, Fred Mascherino 2:30
5. "This Is Fucking Ecstasy" Anthony Raneri 2:39
6. "The Church Channel" Hayley Williams 3:04
7. "Shiksa (Girlfriend)" Caithlin De Marrais 3:38
8. "Baby Girl, I'm a Blur" 4:19
9. "Retarded in Love" (features Casey Prestwood on pedal steel guitar) Chris Carrabba, Michael Auerbach 3:06
10. "People Like You Are Why People Like Me Exist" Trever Keith 3:28
11. "Died a Jew" 2:29
12. "An Insult to the Dead" (Additional arrangement by Joshua Sultan) 4:09
13. "Sorry, Dudes. My Bad."

Chris Conley 2:43

Disc Two
No. Title Guest vocalist(s) Length
1. "Spay Me" 3:13
2. "In Defense of the Genre" Gerard Way 4:02
3. "The Truth Is, You Should Lie with Me" Joshua Sultan 2:31
4. "The Word You Wield" 3:50
5. "Vexed" 2:39
6. "About Falling" Matt Skiba, Laura Kirsch 4:13
7. "You're the Wanker, If Anyone Is" Jordan Pundik, Chad Gilbert, Aaron Gillespie 3:22
8. "Spores" 2:49
9. "We Killed It" Andy Jackson 1:53
10. "Have at Thee!" 3:03
11. "Hangover Song" Anthony Green 0:58
12. "Goodbye Young Tutor, You've Now Outgrown Me" 4:20
13. "I Used to Have a Heart" 4:17
14. "Plea" Kenny Vasoli, Hayley Williams 4:31


  1. This is like £3 in one of my local record shops, I guess I should get it.

  2. I truly think you couldn't have put it in any other words than this. Say Anything will be truly missed.

  3. Except for the fact they still exist and they're still making exceptional records.

  4. Casey watch it, Marcus is my best friend. But yeah they still exist. Anarchy, My Dear comes out next year.

  5. Bad ass review. Could listen to this album for days