Album Review: Bayside – Cult

Bayside are one of those bands that split opinion right down the middle. Half of your friends wax lyrical, telling you how wonderfully talented and original they are; the other half would rather funnel an entire nest of soldier ants into their ear canal than listen to them.

Their sound hangs somewhere on the furthest extents of the pop-punk tree. Sometimes they decide to go full speed ahead Warped Tour bounce-n-riff, and others they expand into something more erudite and considered; or go the opposite direction into all out pop-rock. They’re a slightly odd band, which only adds to their divisive nature.

But chiefly responsible for the Marmite attitude are the vocals of singer/guitarist Anthony Raneri. His voice has a rather odd cadence; sonorous and melodic, but with an almost artificial quality that makes it very difficult to tell if it’s unique or just auto-tuned to high heaven. Either way, those who are into them are generally really, really into them, and it’s in their honour Bayside name this, their sixth full length in a 14 year career, ‘Cult’.

The New York outfit have plenty of experience under their belts and a real understanding of their own style, and as a result this record is brimming with confidence. It launches into existence with ‘Big Cheese’ which opens on a devilish riff and becomes a vehement plea for acknowledgement and recognition. Raneri pledges, “Short on time but here’s my intention, raise my voice and get your attention”.

‘Cult’ is carefully crafted, and the band have made mention of the amount of studio time that’s gone into achieving what they describe as their opus. The chorus hook of the album’s lively first single, ‘Time Has Come’, really is absurdly catchy and buries itself deep in your conscience from first listen.

I’ll hold my up hands and admit that I’ve traditionally been on the wrong side of the fence when it comes to Bayside. On past listens I’ve found Raneri’s delivery jarring and unenjoyable.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘Cult’ has changed my mind, but I’ll admit it’s helped me see light where before there was only darkness. I feel I can see both edges of the sword, understanding the worshippers but still sympathising with the haters. And that extends beyond the singing to other elements.

To clarify, whilst it’s obvious that ‘Cult’ is a labour of love for Bayside, the strengths it draws from the band’s history are threatened by the bad habits they’ve picked up along the way.

A number of the songs suffer from an irritating kookiness which really grates, especially after repeated listens. ‘Hate Me’ is a prosaic homage to a love/hate relationship, which attempts to swagger along with Raneri throwing his voice all over the place. It ends up flat on its face.

Then there’s ‘Transitive Property’, a drippy love song which feels like a personal letter and probably should have remained one. It’s sappy and weakens the album, making its mood diluted and inconsistent. It also sounds horribly over-produced, which makes it stick out undesirably on an otherwise impressively developed release.

‘Cult’ is proof that Bayside are a band very much at ease with themselves and ready, as ever, to take on the world. However, it’s unlikely to make the world any more enamoured to the band than previous efforts have achieved. They’re an act that have stuck to their guns whilst others have fallen and for this they deserve recognition. But whilst new fans may be won, their Marmite music will continue to make them enemies, and Bayside will have to make do with preaching to the already converted.


‘Cult’ by Bayside is released on 18th February on Hopeless Records.

Bayside links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)


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