Max Bemis -- the medicated frontman responsible for every melody, riff, and snare hit on Say Anything's debut -- has broadened his approach for the band's follow-up release. In Defense of the Genre is a double-disc set spanning every nook and cranny of Bemis' record collection, with a full lineup accompanying his romps through screamo, show tunes, and the usual pop-punk territory. Also along for the ride are a number of collaborators, and anyone who questions Say Anything's ability to stay afloat in light of their frontman's bipolar disorder need only notice the supportive cameos by Gerard Way, Pete Yorn, and Chris Carrabba. But even if Bemis has the support of the music industry, he still refuses to play by its rules, structuring In Defense of the Genre like a schizophrenic mixtape instead of something traditionally cohesive. The songs function like a series of miniature suites, making left-hand turns without warning and mixing genres together with a deft hand. Electronica choruses rub shoulders with punky verses in "No Soul." Broadway-styled orchestrations in "That Is Why" give way to the aggressive "Surgically Removing the Tracking Device." Elsewhere, Bemis finds room to toss everything from doo wop to reggae into the pot, and although the resulting concoction isn't quite as appetizing as ...Is a Real Boy, it's certainly good enough to warrant several helpings. Bemis may be seeking to defend the emo genre, but his album instead illustrates the difference between run-of-the-mill emo -- which, indeed, comprises most of the genre's output -- and the imaginative, skillful tunes that flourish here. The only major downside is the album's length; at 89 minutes, it often comes across as untrimmed and longwinded, particularly during the second disc.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2