Review Summary: Bayside score another base hit, but there is still no game-winning home run.
It may be stretching it a little to call Bayside the underdog, but it is fair to state that they are a band whom many a listener wish the best of success to. How could one not when the Long Island quartet are still to achieve significant eminence, despite being hard-working traditionalists who put on a great live show and are consistent on record? In baseball parlance, Bayside frequently get on base, but rarely hit the game-winning home run. Could Bayside finally be getting a little impatient for their well-earned due? If a limited selection of lyrics from their fifth LP ‘Killing Time’ is anything to go by, then it may well be the case.
“My good intentions just keep sliding by the wayside, but it’s high tide and they get washed away with time” sings Anthony Raneri on ‘Sinking and Swimming on Long Island’, before following it with “I believe in futures, but I can’t afford to wait” on ‘The Wrong Way’. More pertinently, the superb chorus of the anthemic title track which fittingly closes the album proclaims ”I spent all my life waiting for a moment to come. Walking single file waiting for a moment to come, but it won’t. I’m half-way to happy now and I always mistake it for progress”. Those fans concerned about a total sell-out need not be concerned however, a fact evident on ‘Seeing Sound’ when the distinctive vocalist matter-of-factly states “I couldn’t care less… Never been that trendy anyway”.
If there is one aspect where Bayside have reached for the stars on ‘Killing Time’, it is in its choice of producer. Having worked on the Pixies’ ‘Doolittle’ and Foo Fighters’ ‘The Colour & The Shape’, iconic Brit Gil Norton is an intriguing step up. Norton or otherwise, Bayside begin their fifth LP just as they have their previous releases: Strongly. The blistering one-two punch of ‘Already Gone’ and ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ are energetic & exciting, with the former containing Raneri’s passionate vocals, biting lyrics and a catchy sing-along chorus. Sure to be a live favourite, ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ then follows by taking the punk ethic a step further with the titular gang vocals. Later, the rip-roaring ‘The Wrong Way’ repeats the dose, but adds a flamboyantly satisfying Jack O’Shea solo to proceedings. The nuggety, under-rated axe-man is arguably given his brightest spotlight here and resoundingly comes through with the goods.
Norton’s main priority is assisting the band in their attempt to blend aggression & melody. For the most part, he does a great job, but there are occasions where the balance is not quite achieved and tracks fall back on the quality of their songwriting. Detractors will point to the mid-tempo pace of ‘Mona Lisa’ and have nightmares of Norton’s work on Funeral For A Friend’s ‘Tales Don’t Tell Themselves’. However, it’s the kind of infectious tune that will have you humming its accessible melody days later. The album’s main issue lies elsewhere, in what can arguably go down as the closest Bayside have ever gone to recording filler. ‘The New Flesh’ is predominantly ineffectual, while ‘Sinking and Swimming on Long Island’ tries to patch up its cracks with closing “woh woh’s”. Furthermore, while a ballad was required to mix things up, ‘On Love, On Life’ borders on dull, even when piling piano, strings & horns into the mix.
Ultimately, ‘Killing Time’ is another solid collection of songs from Bayside… Yet another base hit, but still no game-winning home run. It is doubtful that it will convert detractors or attract a plethora of new admirers. However, it has that nice amalgam of familiarity & progression which should appease loyal fans. The morbidly emo-ish lyrics that once earned them comparisons to Alkaline Trio may have given way to more world-weary issues (although the “cyanide perfume” line on ‘The Wrong Way’ is a winner), while the rougher musical edge has undoubtedly been granted a hard-rock like polish up. Yet, at its heart, ‘Killing Time’ is still definitively Bayside, which means the robust songwriting & musicianship that has been evident throughout their career, pleasingly also exists here.
Recommended Tracks: Already Gone, The Wrong Way, Sick Sick Sick & Killing Time.