ALBUM REVIEW – “Cult” by Bayside

An appropriate title if ever there was one, ‘Cult’ effectively sums up the fanbase that Bayside have collected over the last 14 years. Never achieving the mainstream success of many of their peers, they’ve nonetheless enjoyed longevity thanks to sticking to their guns and consistently releasing albums that put just enough of a spin on the pop punk formula to carve out their own place within the scene. It’s these little touches that have always stood the band out from their peers and typically provided the highlights of their now extensive back catalogue.

As usual, it’s these musical quirks that make Cult an intriguing listen. Opener ‘Big Cheese’ immediately surprises with a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Slayer record and self-deprecating lyrics barbed in their efficacy. In a genre typically regarded as positivist and centred on apathetic fun, it’s an opening shot that makes it immediately clear not to write off Bayside as simply followers of cliché. Instantly following this up with the perky bounce of ‘Time Has Come’ shows how comfortably the band plays with different styles, and indeed this second track is the best slice of traditional pop punk on the album.

That aside, the best moments of the record are those that break with genre tradition. Bayside have always embraced a darker edge than is typical in pop punk and here it provides the album’s highlights. ‘Bear With Me’ could be a long lost My Chemical Romance hit, boasting the distinction of the most memorable chorus of the 11 songs here, while closer ‘The Whitest Lie’ kicks off with a guitar lick reminiscent of Avenged Sevenfold, of all bands, and ends with a theatrical choral coda. Lyrics have always been frontman Anthony Raneri’s strength, and his wry self-awareness and negativism on ‘Hate Me’ and in particular ‘Stuttering’ proves he’s far smarter than most of his contemporaries.

The major problem with Cult, though, is that for all its eccentricities it doesn’t really break any new ground for the band themselves. Bayside being Bayside is certainly no bad thing, but in such a crowded scene stagnation is hugely dangerous for a group that have never really broke into the upper echelon of the genre commercially, while even on the creative front it lacks the ability to leave a real impression. Multiple songs on the album fail to be truly memorable, and there isn’t anything as standout as previous classics ‘Landing Feet First’ or ‘Montauk’. Consistency is all well and good, but if anything this is too consistent, with no sense of ebb and flow, and no real peaks in tone or mood.

For a band so adept at putting a fun spin on what came before them, Bayside don’t sound half uninspired here. They’ve written some pretty fun and interesting tunes and fans are sure to love it, but Cult provides no real reason for those outside of the band’s existing followers to get interested. Settling for being consistently decent, this is an album that doesn’t so much have high and low points as the occasional bump in either direction. It’s well constructed but monochrome, focused but unexciting, and while it’s not the band’s worst album, neither is it Bayside at their best.

Rating: 6/10 

[Michael Bird]

‘Time Has Come’

‘Stuttering’

Bayside

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