Review Summary: Lyrically stunning, Bayside leave the light on for those seeking musical refuge.
“Pretend I don’t exist. You won’t know I’m in the room. I’ll be the ghost of something that used to mean something to you”. Songwriter Anthony Raneri wields a pen like a surgeon; precise and cutting, leaving lyrics like scars that etch into the soul. Equal parts sad, angry, and bitter Bayside’s lead singer remains true to what the band started at the dawn of the millennium. On their 7th LP, the Queens based quartet prove that things do get better with age. Vacancy is a lovely blending of their rough early edges and years of polish that constant writing and touring bring. It serves as a dual purpose release, one that should garner new fans and satisfy those that have been in the Cult of Bayside for years.
“I met Mary on a moonless night; but her starry eyes could make the world look bright”. I will be the first to admit that I was a bit late to the show when it comes to Bayside. My initial exposure was their cover of Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls (which I beseech you to check out). Lead singer and guitarist Anthony Raneri’s unique deliver quickly made it one of my most played tracks (I am a sucker for a good cover). As I dove into their back catalog, I was floored. How had I managed to miss out on this band for so many years?. Dual guitar rock with excellent punk sensibilities blended with copious amounts of technical precision (check out some of lead guitarist Jack O’Shea’s work on the bands last release Cult). All coupled with lyrics the best poets’ only dream of. Bassist Nick Ghanbarian and drummer Chris Guglielmo couple to form a stellar rhythm section. This lineup has been playing together since 2006 and the years of touring and working together shine through on Vacancy. It is rare that a band puts out music this excellent so far into their career. The studio polish is left to a minimum leaving their working class roots to shine through. If you have never seen them in concert Bayside kill it live, and that translates well on Vacancy.
“Lord grant me clarity; a shot glass and an hour of sleep. Anything to get me through the night”. Having been around for over 15 years the group has picked up some demons along the way. Musically the album keeps a nice up-beat pace. Tracks like Enemy Lines and Pretty Vacant lead with driving, drum laden structure. Buried beneath those waves though are Raneri and his vitriol. His voice lends dissension and sarcasm to what otherwise could be some rather upbeat jams. That is what makes Bayside stand out from countless other acts out there with the same modus operandi. Once you add the guitar genius that is Jack O’Shea to that mix and you have something special. Stand out tracks (Mary, The Ghost and Behind Enemy Lines) are all exemplary and should have fans singing along in short order. Surprisingly for a lyrically dark record there is no traditional ballad to be found. Bayside instead choose to express their exasperation with life, love, and the pursuit of existence through lyrics not structure. Consistency is one area where a bit of struggle can be heard. The songs that stand out shine a bright light on those that fall more into the middle of the road. A minor complaint when most bands find it hard to write three decent tracks (let alone 11 of them).
“It’s not as depressing as it sounds, just wanna be prepared. I’m in no rush to end it, but look at it from my perspective”. Vacancy fills a void that is quietly missing in the current music scene. Bayside are not trying to be anything other than themselves and it works in spades. It rides a long a few genre lines to be just great music in the end. Relying more on skill and heart than studio wizardry and paid songwriters they prove that there is indeed quality rock and roll being made in 2016.