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01.18 In Defense of the Genre

Only the gifted + extremely hubristic can safely appropriate pop culture gems and recycle them just one generation later. Max Bemis, who arguably falls under both of those headings [that is, talented + cocky], did just that when he dubbed his band Say Anything.

At the very moment of that titling, John Cusack, Ione Skye, Peter Gabriel and Cameron Crowe simultaneously cringed at the potential bastardization of such a revered institution. The Crowe-directed movie of the same name has, after all, colored anyone and everyone's use of a portable stereo ever since its 1989 release.

But the name stuck, and the cringing quickly subsided when Cusack & Co. and the music-buying masses heard 2004's "...Is A Real Boy." Because it was actually good. And Say Anything--Max Bemis, Coby Linder, Alex Kent, Jake Turner, Jeff Turner and Parker Case--proved that a little name-thieving can go a long way. Three years later, they've revealed themselves as the mostly-intelligent anti-heroes of a musical niche that was rapidly approaching [and mostly still meanders towards] puerile, inane stupidity/irrelevance.

So when the band titled their recent October release "In Defense of the Genre," it was with apprehension that fans of said musical brand picked up the disc(s). Because if the album was atrocious--or potentially even worse, average and middling--what would that say about the genre the band so devotedly refers to?

The album, as it turns out, straddles greatness by planting one foot firmly in genre-based tradition and the other in genre-bucking diversification. It does the music industry--and emo[tive] music in general--a service.

The album, which spans two discs and 27 (!) songs, is just plain good; grown-up in the right places while leaving room for yet more maturation in between the mostly-tactful [and age-appropriate--the band is in their young twenties] snarls and gripes.

SPIN Magazine dubbed the record one of the top 40 of 2007, and many would tend to agree. There is little to nothing sophomoric about "In Defense," and thus the band has dodged the ever-dreaded slump that often coincides with the release of a second studio album. So, you know, kudos to Say Anything.

Plus, Cameron Crowe hasn't sued yet, which is sweet.

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