For Fans Of
In the nearly 15 years New York punk stalwarts Bayside have been active, they’ve always been at their best when penning tunes drenched to the bone with melancholic subject matter while also being packed full of breakneck punk aggression, anthemic choruses and heady pop hooks. Sixth studio album ‘Cult’ takes most of these elements and presents them in a way that’s entirely unapologetic and self-assured, the result being the band’s best record in years.
As frontman Anthony Raneri ponders existential questions of legacy on opener ‘Big Cheese’, there’s a sense of urgent frustration coursing through – something we soon find out is consistent throughout the album, both from a thematic and musical perspective. Raneri and co. let rip without much hesitation from pretty much the word go and rarely tone it down – even on the slower numbers, there’s still this feeling of immediacy underneath.
Musically, Bayside are easily at the most creative they’ve been in years. The band have always favoured a slightly more ‘rock’ edge to their punk, and Jack O’Shea’s huge guitar lines and solos – god forbid, right? – are classic Bayside, piercing, proud and furious. That said, for their debut with the predominantly sugary Hopeless Records, there’s a departure into some much less sinister musical territory on album six. With some unabashedly pop-punk gems scattered across ‘Cult’, ‘Time Has Come’ boasts one of the catchiest choruses of the Bayside discography. That they’re able to juxtapose a song as sonically upbeat with the infinitely more menacing ‘Hate Me’ and still feel like a cohesive and logical flow is testament to the band’s distinctive yet all-encompassing musical tapestry.
Lyrically, Raneri is fairly introspective, a little less acid-tongued and, save for the likes of ‘Hate Me’ and ‘Pigsty’, deviates somewhat from the standard incendiary vitriol that’s arguably the band’s trademark. Raneri goes as far to wryly critique this on the impossibly catchy ‘Stuttering’, sarcastically declaring he’s the “voice of the depressed” as “that’s what everyone expects”, and though ‘Cult’ is filled with classic Bayside themes – self-deprecation, cynicism – there’s a glimmer of optimism at their roots, such as seen on the punk balladry of ’Transitive Property’.
It’s easy to understand why the cover art for ‘Cult’ is covered in references to the band’s previous five studio albums. In a lot of ways, it encapsulates all the ground Bayside have been covering since their inception and amalgamates them in a way that demonstrates a band at the absolute top of their game, acutely aware of both where they came from and where they are now. For old fans, it’s an album that is bound to please. For new, it’s a great introduction to one of the most consistently solid punk acts of the past decade.
1. Big Cheese
2. Time Has Come
3. Hate Me
4. You’re No Match
6. Transitive Property
8. Bear With Me
9. Objectivist on Fire
10. Something’s Wrong
11. The Whitest Lie