Longevity is not a guarantee. It is not to be expected, demanded, or even begged for; rather, it is earned. Those bands who are able to stick around for a long time do so not because they jump trends, “sell out,” market themselves well, have a strong business plan, or the best merch designs, but because the quality of the product they make is consistent, meaningful, and ever-evolving. There are very few bands who can say that they have accomplished the feat of longevity, but thankfully, Bayside has become one of them. On their sixth full-length album Cult, the band begin to look back on their storied career, and the result is some of its most empowered material yet.
Frontman Anthony Raneri’s lyrics have always been biting, bitter, and relatable, thanks to his knack for playing the angry, jilted lover with consitent excellence. This time around, however, Raneri has widened his scope, and tackles a few subjects not present on the band’s last full-length, the aggressive and gigantic-sounding Killing Time. While Killing Time focused mostly on Raneri’s divorce, Cult finds the frontman in a much happier state of mind, which may be accredited to the birth of his daughter with his new wife. The ablum begins with a look back, as opening track “Big Cheese,” which features a pounding introduction from drummer Chris Guglielmo, before Raneri unleashes his anger-filled lyrics, which find him pondering how he’ll be remembered. “There will be a day when I sadly outlive all my useful traits,” Raneri predicts, before adding his hope for the band’s legacy: “And when I look back, I want to know that we were more than just a fad.” “Big Cheese” makes way for one of the album’s singles, “Time Has Come,” which also ponders what the band will be leaving behind, but in a more optimistic way than its predecessor. Featuring a chorus that finds Raneri stating his intentions of “making sounds/that make me proud,” the track moves crisply into a series of gang shouts and whoa-ohs that are among the band’s most infectious hooks.
The band’s legacy is the subject of Raneri’s musings throughout the album on other tracks like “Stuttering” and “Objectivist on Fire,” with the latter featuring a very somber opening. Bassist Nick Ghanbarian is the only member of the band accompanying Raneri’s vocals, which sound more vulnerable than they ever have. The track takes a new perspective on Raneri’s reflection on his career, with a chorus claiming that he’s “Running out of days to finally get it right,” and “chasing after something I was never meant to find.” This could be about the fact that the band never got the type of “big break” their peers like Brand New, Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, and a few others have received. Though the sentiment gives off a feeling of sadness, the strings that accompany the band show that the band are still as focused as ever and working to master their craft.
While the reflections of their career are wonderfully crafted, Cult returns to the bread-and-butter of Bayside’s career with tracks 3-5: jilted lover jams. While it’s certainly ground they’d tread on (many times) before, Bayside have always found way to keep things fresh and different enough that they never come off as stale. While “Hate Me” sounds more like the type of song bands like Saving Abel, Hinder, Theory of a Dead Man, Papa Roach, and who knows how many others will never be talented enough to write. The track is certainly good enough to keep your attention, but for some reason, it just doesn’t feel like it belongs in Bayside’s discography. After that comes “You’re No Match,” which appears to be on the fast-track to become a fan favorite in the vein of “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns,” thanks to its monstrous chorus and crunching guitars. The third and final act of the trio, lead single “Pigsty,” comes out with a roar, as Raneri launches an attack from a lover he’s “escaped.” Lead guitarist Jack O’ Shea provides his best solo of the album on the track, and the slightly understated chorus has a way of sticking out, despite not being as powerful as some of the others throughout Cult.
What some may complain about with Bayside is that they have yet to take any huge creative risks since the beginning of their career. The band are still following the same formula of fast-paced rock tracks that are driven by O’ Shea’s solos, and Raneri’s lyrics typically fall into the “jilted lover” category. While those complaints won’t be tempered with Cult, there is still a great deal of variety for the band to prove their mettle yet again. “Transitive Property” actually turns out to be a very earnest and emotional love song, while the band’s reflective tendencies help to create tracks like “Big Cheese” and “Time Has Come,” which have an energy that will be difficult for any other band to match. They’ve never deviated too far from the mean, but when they’ve been this creative and produced such great results, why fix what clearly has never been broken? There may be a complaint to be had about the album being a little front-loaded, but when the album’s closer “The Whitest Lie” ends with such a bang, what more can you ask for?
Throughout Cult, the listener will find countless occasions of Anthony Raneri’s lyrics reflecting the band’s pride in what they’ve become. As a result, the album finds the band achieving an air of swagger in their songs, likely a direct result of the band’s freedom under new label Hopeless Records. It’s an album that probably won’t change your opinion of Bayside no matter what side of the fence you’re on, but after all this time, if you haven’t already joined Bayside’s cult of fans, you probably never will. That’s fine, because as they prove (yet again) with Cult, they’re going to do what they do best, nothing less and nothing more. They’ve never had a huge radio hit like “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” “The Feel Good Drag,” or “MakeDamnSure,” but they still churn out jams like “Pigsty” and “Time Has Come” to go along with “Devotion and Desire” and “Sick, Sick, Sick.” They may never sell out arenas, but they can fill a club of just about any size with fans ready and willing to passionately sing these songs back to them. They may not have the largest fan base, but they have one of the most loyal and dedicated. These are the rewards Bayside have reaped for never straying from their strengths, keeping their heads down, staying away from controversy, and ultimately, making honest, relatable, and good music. Bayside may never be the biggest, most popular, most visible bands in this scene, but if they keep making albums like Cult, they’ll go down as one of the very best.