New York punk quartet Bayside are back with their seventh studio album, ‘Vacancy’. Confidently performed, it tickles the heartstrings thanks to some emotive content, but drags badly with inconsistencies that threaten to leave the listener as lost as the subject of the lyrics.
Kicking off, ‘Two Letters’ writes one of its own – a treatise to those listening that this album will be absolutely chock full of fat riffs. Indeed, the musicality of the entire band is by far the strongest part of the record. The opening moments here, and in the later ‘Maybe, Tennessee’, showcase the band’s familiarity with a hard-hitting style that will make you want to walk a little harder, stand a little taller.
Bassist Nick Ghanbarian pulls off some intricate work throughout, directing the pace on the best track, ‘Pretty Vacant’, in a style akin to The Menzingers, but it’s not until halfway through, during ‘Rumspringa (Return To Heartbreak Road)’, that Jack O’Shea lets loose on an incredible guitar solo. When it comes, it sounds like a drowning man desperate to tell you the most important secrets of his life, gasping for one gigantic breath, and letting it go in a spellbinding burst.
Considering the album’s intensity, Anthony Renieri‘s vocals slide too easily along the surface. They lack the same grit; a silk glove over an iron fist. Not that his contribution is without merit. His lyrics, born out of a divorce, are effective. “I’ve been tucked in at the bottom of this lake / And I’ve begun to settle in”, he sings on the aforementioned ‘Pretty Vacant’.
The “vacancy” of the album refers to the emptiness of losing a loved one, but it’s also an apt description for the missing pieces that could tie together the inconsistencies in style. Early on, the record veers from power-pop to what can only be described as haunted house music.
One offender, ‘Not Fair’, is a song could easily make an early Panic! At The Disco b-side. Renieri goes at once from jilted lover to ringmaster of a cursed circus, and though the riffs just about rescue it, the lyrics, “You’re about to find out that this is all a theme park with a creepy carousel / Stop spinning around in circles, it’s time to help yourself”, and a harpsichord bridge immediately afterwards detract from any genuine emotion.
Bayside are definitely trying something new with this record, with surprises that long-time fans may find unpleasant. It may not be successful all the time, but isn’t that what a good relationship is about?
Written by Chris Yeoh (@chris_yeoh)