Words by Bill San Antonio

Bayside singer Anthony Raneri’s identity as a musician stems largely from his being a Queens, New York native, right down to the punk quartet sharing its name with its frontman’s home neighborhood. Following the release and touring cycle of the band’s sixth album, 2014’s Cult, Raneri, his then-wife and their young daughter uprooted to Nashville, Tenn., where the couple planned to buy a house and open a tattoo shop. Over time, it became clear to Raneri that the couple could not split time between Tennessee and New York as initially intended, and as the marriage dissolved he moved into an apartment in a nearby suburb and faced an existential crisis that drives much of Bayside’s seventh L.P., Vacancy (out August 19 on Hopeless Records).

In short, moving halfway across the country – away from Life As You’ve Always Known It – can reeeeeeeally suck. “So call the coast and tell them I’ll be back someday,” Raneri wails on “Maybe, Tennessee,” which depicts the loneliness that can accompany being cooped up in an apartment in an unfamiliar city with few trusted confidants nearby (“Now I am free to fly/majestic, though I think that I’m going crazy talking to myself”). On “Pretty Vacant,” he laments that his life’s recent, drastic changes have left him “pretty vacant all the time,” and “Enemy Lines” places him in territory where he doesn’t yet particularly feel welcome, as he refers to himself as “Just a Yank on Southern battlefields.”

Lyrically, Raneri often pits himself in an even deeper circle of personal hell, vacillating between rage and regret over the apparent end of his second marriage. Though he wrestles with the notion of referring to her as his ex on “Two Letters” (“Hope you understand I’m not prepared to call you just a friend”), Raneri on “Rumspringa (Return to Heartbreak Road)” spews: “I’ll catch the red-eye home, if you insist/god knows you’ve got to sleep an extra ten fucking minutes.” But on “The Ghost,” he all but begs for reconciliation. “Say this isn’t real / Say this was a joke / Say there’s still space for me in bed / Cause I can’t live alone.”

“Vacancy” was shaped in separate states (guitarist O’Shea also lives in the Nashville area, while drummer Chris Guglielmo relocated to California while bassist Nick Ghanbarian remains the sole New Yorker) but recorded at the studio compound home to Kings of Leon in Tennessee. While Raneri’s personal struggles often shine brightest on “Vacancy,” O’Shea delivers some of his strongest work to date. Though his ear-splitting solos that defined much of the band’s early catalogue are not as frequent on album No. 7 – but trust me, they’re there – O’Shea continues to write increasingly complex lead parts that compliment Raneri’s rhythms and emotional lyrical state. Guglielmo and Ghanbarian provide some of the most pleasant surprises on the album, with a seemingly out-of-place but welcome disco beat on “Rumspringa”’s chorus and a bass solo to kick off “Enemy Lines,” the first song marketed ahead of the album’s release. They’re touches that add depth to Bayside’s punk-meets-Broadway sound, signs that Raneri is not alone in the world, not even in his own band.

Hopeless Records
© August 19th, 2016



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