Review Summary: With an arm raised in triumphant meloncholia...Acoustic
was released February 2006 in the wake of drummer John “Beatz” Holohan’s tragic death. In late 2005, following a Colorado show in support of their sophomore release (s/t), the group’s vehicle crashed and flipped while traveling late at night during inclimate weather. “Beatz” was killed in the accident, and bassist Nick Ghanbarian was seriously injured. Bayside members recorded Acoustic
as a tribute of sorts to their fallen drummer. The album’s lead track ‘Winter’ was in fact written about this event and is dedicated to his memory.
Firstly, the title Acoustic
is perhaps a bit misleading. Although acoustic instruments are used on eight of ten songs, these recordings are not performed in an “Unplugged” style, as they lack bass and drums. The remaining cuts sport full arrangements and electric instruments. These distinctions, however, are trivial as they certainly don’t affect the listener’s enjoyment.
One may be surprised of just how well Bayside’s material translates to the minimalistic approach of two acoustic guitars accompanied by the coarse and emotive crooning of Anthony Raneri. A good song is a good song regardless of format, and Acoustic
highlights the group’s songwriting ability. Raneri’s proclivity to experiment with the vocal melody keeps things fresh for those familiar with the band, while Jack O’Shea’s lead work is perhaps more impressive with the increased articulation afforded by use of an acoustic instrument. Bayside’s musicianship alone arguably boosts them above their pop-punk and pop-rock contemporaries. Album highlights ‘Devotion and Desire’ and personal favorite ‘Montauk’ serve as good examples of what the group is capable of on a technical level, retaining energy and catchiness of the originals.
, while thoroughly listenable, is not without some glaring problems. With only ten tracks, the inclusion of two covers is a letdown, particularly when they are amongst the weakest tunes here. The majority of songs are taken from the self-titled, and it might have been nice to see a couple from Bayside’s excellent debut Sirens and Condolences
receive the same treatment. I simply have no explanation as to why the electric numbers ‘Baby Britain’ and ‘Paternal Reversal’ are featured on what is supposed to be an acoustic album. ‘Baby Britain’ in particular does not belong anywhere near this record. An annoyingly upbeat Elliot Smith cover does mesh well with the atmosphere of brooding and angst so prevalent in Bayside’s music. Lastly, one should generally anticipate a slightly reduced tempo with acoustic renditions of electric numbers, but ‘They Looked Like Strong Hands’ is agonizingly slow, to the point that the performers themselves seem to lose track of the rhythm. Ultimately, Acoustic
delivers only a pittance of what it advertises despite the strength of its product.