Say Anything - In Defense of the Genre
Record Label: J Records
Release Date: October 23, 2007
For some reason, I was nervous about reviewing Say Anything’s newest album, In Defense of the Genre. Maybe I was worried that people wouldn’t agree with what I had to say, or maybe it was because I didn’t feel that I knew enough about the band. With the cult-like following that Say Anything boast, the last thing a reviewer wants to do is make people angry. There is nothing more frightening than a mob of Say Anything fans chasing you with swords and clubs, as the album artwork suggests.
The double-disc, which is a whopping 27 songs long, is an album that blurs the genre lines with incorporations of everything from electronica, dance, hardcore, swing, jazz, pop, and rock.
Disc one opens with “Skinny, Mean Man,” a song that caught me off guard with its intensity and aggregative style. Overall, it doesn’t have a solid “flow” to it, but instead changes from aggressive to bright, then from bright to tranquil in an ending the features lead vocalist Max Bemis’ voice repeating "faster, faster" over quiet, placid guitar. “No Soul,” featuring Anna Waronker and DJ Swamp, is a track sprinkled with keyboard and synthesizer and at times feels like a hellogoodbye b-side and at other times a dance-club remix. However, this chaotic (and often confusing) method of piecing song parts together isn’t unique to just these two songs, but runs as a motif throughout both discs, with each song seemingly losing its identity not from a lack of creativity, but from the amount of creativity. With every track bursting at the seams with the instrumentation, from synthesizers ("Baby Girl, I’m a Blur") to arrangements that feel like they should be playing from a saloon jukebox ("That is Why"), I felt overwhelmed and bewildered. Was it because of the unnatural arrangements? Was it because of the lawlessness and tumultuous feel of the record? Or was it because I was viewing the record the wrong way, by taking it apart song by song? With that being said, In Defense of the Genre is not meant to be understood as a record reliant on the individuality of each song, but as a sum of its parts - as a model (and defense) of the genre.
In the back of the album booklet is a section devoted to the recognition of the guest appearances on the record. Usually, this part of the booklet is brief. However, the list for In Defense of the Genre is astounding, full of the most familiar names in music, such as Haley Williams (Paramore), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance), and Kenny Vassoli (The Starting Line). I doubt that marketing is the reason for the grand amount guests on the record. Instead, Say Anything are doing their best to defend a genre that is often criticized for lack of innovation by incorporating artists from the bands who define the genre, allowing the critics to either accept the album at face value or deny it.
Regardless of intent or vision, Say Anything have succeeded in making an album that is both original and enjoyable, a thought-provoking piece that borrows from a multitude of influences. Although the record could have been cut to one disc and is less focused than …Is a Real Boy, the vast array of instruments and musical and vocal arrangements make up for it. If anything, the creation of In Defense of the Genre hasn’t started a war, but has stopped one. It has united all of those crowded in front of the main stage at Warped Tour together at the pit not for a fist fight, but for a long awaited unification.
good review. to be honest i didnt really like the cd at first but now i have had it playing in my car nonstop and i only skip one song on the first disc- an insult to the dead.( i just am not feeling that song.)
I completely agree with the second paragraph. most of the songs i like until some strange part ruins it for me. As well as the guest vocals..most of them ruin the song in my opinion, like gerard ways part(that song rocks until he steps in), and whoevers in about falling, and especially that last song on disc one. I do like the song with the TBS singers though (they actually back max nicely and dont change the song). but basically, i havnt listened to this album since the week it came out.
i'm not too crazy about this review
just talked about the band instead of the record
a 27 track record as complex at this deserves more attention to the music then the band
and i agree that the lyrics could be a bit higher
This review is horribly off the mark. You fail to justify your marks considering how grandiose and epic this cd - it really is a culmination of years of song written coming together to tell the rise and fall of a man and his love and is really one of the AOTY.
The 7.75 in lyrics is just asinine - sorry.
Also, I think you are completely wrong about saying the songs are not to be valued - each one brings something special to the album. Listen to Have At Thee! or We Killed It and try and tell me differently. Brilliant song writing, awesome musicianship. Great cd. The other review was more on the mark.
overall, this album doesn't have any flow for me. it has a few solid songs in my opinion, but a lot of the tracks have parts where it's just like, maybe if they stuck to a more basic song structure i could get into the song more.
either way, lyrical content is interesting to try to follow, and you can't knock these boys for creativity. they tried it all on this disc, so they have my respect on that.