Say Anything's third full length album pleases on many levels. The catchy, vocal-driven and hook-laden sound of Is A Real Boy remains, but the songs are more varied and expansive. If you enjoy rock music, don't mind a healthy dose of pop, and have some sense of fun then In Defense of the Genre is for you - hopefully that should cover quite a lot of people.
The album starts aggressively with Skinny, Mean Man, and the following track No Soul is similarly angry - the lyrics confrontational "I'd rather spend an evening giving birth / than see how your eyes are glued / on everyone except the person you talking to." This track, whilst reminding us of the honest (and at times painfully funny) lyrics of main man Max Beamis, employs a sinister piano line and samples from Juicy Fruit by James Mtume, resulting in a tune with huge sing-along potential, and one of the album's highlights.
The pop barrage continues with songs such as the bizarre, carnival-esque That Is Why, Shiska's instantly memorable vocal chant, and the bass and synth driven Died A Jew. Songs such as The Church Channel and Spay Me indicate that Beamis' vision for Say Anything extends beyond simple pop songs however, going further - both eschew traditional song structures but instead feature several movements within them. Think Green Day's Jesus of Suburbia but with all the contained inside a three minute pop song. Beamis' more reflective side is not downplayed either - and An Insult To The Dead, Vexed, and Goodbye Young Tutor all break up the rush of pop-punk. The latter is particularly tender and effective.
Lyrically, the album is similarly diverse. In choosing In Defense of the Genre as the title track however, Beamis hints at its primary concern - combating stereotypes about "emo" music and its themes ("They'll label us what they can never be / So hate me but .. I am in your heart"). Simply put, it's ok to write about your feelings, and indeed it is what prevents music from being a collection of "corporate ballads."
Criticism? At twenty seven tracks long, the quality of song-writing does vary - with the second disc being less consistent than the first, and some tracks are forgettable. The last three tunes will restore your faith however - Goodbye Young Tutor has already been mentioned, whilst I Used To Have A Heart recalls Weezer's finest moments. I defy you to not air guitar during its climactic solo - an explosive demonstration of Beamis' talent in all areas. Plea closes the album, and is suitably epic and emotional.
Quick mention should be given to the various cameo appearances on the album, most tracks feature them - Hayley Williams of Paramore and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance are perhaps the two most famous collaborators. The former's contribution is the most noticeable and also the most effective. The others are rather more muted, though they do add another layer of interest for the curious.
All in all, an addictive, generous, and astonishingly broad album.
I love SA from the first time I heard them on a compilation album, 9 months ago because of how good Max's voice is and im not disappointed on this album, his voice sounds AMAZING. A really good album with only a couple of songs that i dont love and there still good. I have been listening to it almost constantly since I got it a month and a half ago. I think the best songs are:- Died a Jew, Have at thee, Goodbye young tutor, i used to have a heart, plea.