Review Summary: Bayside frontman belatedly joins the cavalcade to release a solo record.
With the cavalcade of frontmen releasing solo records of late being too long to list, it is almost a matter of “when” – not “if” – these days as to whether certain vocalists will decide to take a break from their day job. This goes double for bands in the alternative and punk rock scene, a sound which New York quartet Bayside fall comfortably in the middle of. Released on his own label, ‘Gumshoe Records’, Bayside singer-guitarist Anthony Raneri belatedly joins the long list of solo artists with his 17 minute debut EP ‘New Cathedrals’.
As per usual with such a release, the majority of the tracks contained on them will usually have been written and stored over the years. Dating back to 2004, opener ‘Sandra Partial’ is an alt-country tune with a lovely melody that makes effective use of Raneri’s unique – and often divisive – voice. While obviously a more organic effort than any of Bayside’s LPs, ‘New Cathedrals’ far from simply treads the well-worn stripped-down acoustic boards which most similar releases traverse. In fact, it could be argued that it is predominantly a full-band effort, with the opener including piano from RX Bandits’ Steve Choi and drums courtesy of current My Chemical Romance sticks man Jarrod Alexander.
Choi’s keys return on the ska/reggae stylings of ‘Charleston’, Alexander brings in some bongos on closer ‘Please Don’t Leave’, while an electric guitar is front and center of the most Bayside sounding track ‘Lead, Follow, Fall’; a song which failed to make the cut of his band’s most recent LP ‘Killing Time’. Centerpiece ‘The Ballad of Bill The Saint’ fares very well in its folk-punk sound, with Raneri’s song-writing strength coming to the fore in conjunction with the most convincing vocal performance of this five track EP.
On ‘Charleston’, the only track fully written for ‘New Cathedrals’, Raneri sings “Wishing I was alone, so much better on my own”’. Well, I wouldn’t go that far Anthony, but you have managed to release a solid and well-produced solo debut here, whose welcome – if not ground-breaking – diversity does hint at the potential for future improvement. Considering his band’s motto of “Bayside Is A Cult”, ‘New Cathedrals’ at least has an instant loyal niche audience to serve... However, I’m unsure if it contains sufficient quality to attract sizable further numbers. While all five tracks contain likable foot-tapping melodies, the lack of anything significantly memorable makes ‘New Cathedrals’ a little too forgettable to demand subsequent listening. Put it this way: While the last thing anyone would want is a repeat of the circumstances which led to its existence, there definitely is no ‘Winter’ amongst this lot.
Recommended Tracks: Sandra Partial & The Ballad of Bill The Saint.