Review Summary: Bayside's debut provides just enough of a punch to ward off stagnancy, but leaves the listener wanting more.
If ever you've come across bands like Alkaline Trio, Brand New, or maybe even Death Cab For Cutie, then essentially you've heard Bayside's debut record, 'Sirens and Condolences'. These New York hailing punk-rockers take everything you've heard from pop-punk and emo and throw them in a simmering pot of hate and distortion. However bland that may sound, the execution is actually quite endearing. From the opener, 'Masterpiece', it's clear what kind of record this is going to be, and that's what is really enjoyable about this record. You can shamelessly enjoy each pounding, harsh song with just as much enjoyment as the band had in creating it. The repetition of chords and choruses is all but expected from the genre, and Bayside does it well while still being able to have enough lyrical substance to keep them above stagnancy.
The group's lead man and driving force, Anthony Raneri, is really who carries this record. With his passionate shouts and intensely personal lyrics, it's evident that he really takes pride in this. And while the record is certainly serious, it still keeps that sort of fun that comes with the gritty-punk style that they're going for. Much like their genre-sharing predecessors Alkaline Trio, they utilize their ability to craft catchy music, while still remaining lyrically solid and genuine. While some of the lyrics can be relatively cheesy, there are a handful of memorable moments tossed throughout the record. On the album's closer, 'Guardrail', Raneri's shouts of, "Break your neck like you broke my will!" holds a really legitimate intensity that would soon become the band's niche.
When it comes to instrumentation, it's the same blasting distortion with the electric guitar and pounding drums that make up a majority of the album. However, as previously mentioned this is all a suit of the genre and it fits Raneri's vocals quite nicely. It would be hypocritical not to mention that this is really nothing new, and is easily one of the shortcomings of the record. Whether it clearly aspires to just be another fun and emotionally packed punk record or not, it still stands that had there been more depth in the instrumentation, it could have been a really fantastic outing by one of the now more prominent names in pop-punk.
'Sirens and Condolences', has its hits and misses, but it has a lot of heart, and for a debut record it does its job. Despite being stale in a few spots, Bayside present themselves concisely and in a fashion that would soon become their own style. Their emotional-punk trend continues onto their second release and to great effect once again. Bayside exhibit that there are still bands willing to have fun while playing and hold that raw punch in their lyrics to keep them interesting, and that is all too refreshing.