Review Summary: Say Anything doing what Say Anything does.
As the album starts out with "Skinny, Mean Man", you can immediately tell by the distorted guitar and the intimidatingly pitched-down vocals flatly reading poetry that Max Bemis, the frontman of Say Anything, was not going for an "...Is A Real Boy" Part 2. He wants to defend an entire genre this time around. With the help of big-name singers like Gerard Way, he might just succeed.
Something the album does exceptionally is whatever it takes to keep you interested in what you're listening to. "People Like You Are Why People Like Me Exist" would be an incredibly dull song if it wasn't for the complete left-turn it makes halfway through. Tired of hearing Max loathe about his pathetic life in "The Church Channel"? Let's add in a Haylie Williams verse and, why the hell not, some thundering church bells.
There is also a good deal of experimentation going on here. When was the last time you heard a bass drum pattern replaced by a looped chord strike? It was probably the last time you listened to the chorus in "No Soul", which also has a great coda, filled with record scratches and female vocals. Not all experimentation is executed well, though. "Goodbye, Young Tutor..." is something rare from Say Anything, which is an acoustic sad-sac ballad. With 2 guitars, both turned down low in the mix, the song begs for you to just listen to the words Max Bemis sighs out. Although it does have some great lyrics, there's just not enough going on to keep you interested. In addition to this, it's also between the exciting minute-long "Hangover Song" and album highlight "I Used To Have A Heart". As for the single, "Shiksa (Girlfriend)", it does a fantastic job at representing Say Anything as a whole. With a catchy chorus, back-up vocals from the rest of the band, and creatively alliterative lyrics.
The flaws on this album are few and far between, but they do stick out. While "Spores" is a good song, it gets boring after a couple listens. "Surgically Removing The Tracking Device" is a bit too wandering and could've used a break in it. Also, I understand "Plea" is supposed to be the "big epic finale" as seen on "...Is A Real Boy" (Admit It!!!) and later on their self-titled (Ahhh... Men), but I really can't find a good reason to go back and listen again. It is a great song on paper, but "I Used To Have A Heart" would have made a much more suitable closer.
In conclusion, In Defense Of The Genre will surprise you with its excellent use of the double-album format, with nearly no filler, it's smart lyrics, filled with metaphors and alliterations, and it's smartly executed use of guest vocals.