CD REVIEW: SIRENS AND CONDOLENCES (6 OUT OF 10)
Upon first seeing Bayside’s new album, Sirens and Condolences, I was struck by a vague sense of familiarity, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. Once I gave the disc a spin, I was still at a loss as to why the band’s name stood out in my mind. After reading their literature, I realized that I had heard them on a tribute compilation for Jawbreaker, a band of whom they claim to be channeling on Sirens and Condolences. This little episode of amnesia pretty much sums up Bayside: not bad, but utterly forgettable.
Bayside hails from their namesake in Long Island, and is signed to the emo/hardcore label Victory Records. Though their label is home to such bands as Bury Your Dead and the Buffalo outfit Snapcase, they are most similar in sound to their label mates and mall punk demigods, Taking Back Sunday. They are slightly dark, loud, and use the standard “emo” chord progressions and hint of abrasiveness that seems to be all the rage with kids today.
The music is in no way bad, but it suffers from the all-too-common affliction of being glaringly average. There is absolutely nothing that stands out on Sirens and Condolences, as each song melts into the next, making them practically indistinguishable. Similarly styled riffs begin each track, quickly ascending into the chugging guitars and relentless drums that back nasal, if not whiny, vocal tracks. The songs are mildly catchy and agreeable; kind of like a rock version of elevator music. Ultimately, because the music lacks a certain intangible energy inherent within all great compositions, Bayside’s homogenous songs cannot sustain the listeners’ attention and interest for its modest 40-minute running time, and the album loses steam towards the end.
Singer Anthony Ranieri’s lyrics fall flat on this album, as he attempts to create a wrenching, emotional experience, but instead spews muddled clichés and expounds upon themes that have been visited thousands of times before by similar bands of their ilk. His inner turmoil seems feigned, almost as if his lyrics are simply an afterthought to compliment Bayside’s brooding sound. When he sings, “There’s no pain and no pleasure when you’re too numb to feel,” on the track “How to Fix Everything,” it feels contrived. The lyrics ring hollow and lack resonance; they are heavy on angst and light on substance.
Tom Morello, guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, once said, “A good song should make you wanna tap your foot and get with your girl. A great song should destroy cops and set fire to the suburbs. I’m only interested in writing great songs.” If you’re looking for an unassuming album to put on in the background while you’re having a party or hanging out, Sirens and Condolences is a great choice. Unfortunately, that seems to be the band’s aim, and in terms of Morello’s guidelines, Bayside just wants to get you laid.