The Decay / Wayfarer - Decayfarer (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Decay / Wayfarer

Decayfarer (2011)


Geography aside, Ontario punk bands the Decay and Wayfarer aren't the most obvious pairing for a split, particularly an LP. The Decay's sound has always been rooted in early punk rock, reveling in a gritty and well-mined vein that stretches from the late '70s through the mid-'90s. It's street punk. It's melodic hardcore. It's a known quantity. Wayfarer skews younger. I wouldn't be surprised if another well-composed split, that between Hot Water Music and the Alkaline Trio, gets constant play in their practice space. Wayfarer takes lessons from both of those acts, seeking out more melodic and emotionally resonant ground. The Decay's the type of band that could make a career playing to small but devoted crowds of leather-clad, beer-soaked die-hards. On the other hand I'm fairly certain that as you read this Wayfarer's lyrics are being transcribed onto the back cover of some lovelorn teenager's binder. The older crowd isn't so impressed.

In isolation, both approaches have their weaknesses. The very act of maintaing the Decay's street-wise punk thrust makes certain areas of the emotional spectrum difficult to reach. So many similar bands have fallen into a rut of crafting serviceable but ultimately uninspiring rock'n'roll album after album. Wayfarer has the opposite problem. In the wrong hands or under the wrong production their songwriting could descend into utter sap, leaving little to appeal to those now free of teenage heartbreak.

It's wonderful how, in combination, the bands soar above these pitfalls. The Decay's upbeat, shout-along rock plays counterpoint to Wayfarer's darker introspection, with neither needing to sacrifice what they're best at or play at something they're not. It helps that individually both bands are at the top of their game. The Decay's songwriting here is the best I've ever heard from them. Tracks like "Guile" and "Weight Gain and the Changing Face of Punk Rock" call to mind great material from Bouncing Souls, Leatherface and Nothington, often within a single song. Wayfarer leads their side with their own declaration of influences, bringing Matt Skiba and Chris McCaughan to the party with the pensive "Collide" and propulsive songs like "Daughter of Time".

Decayfarer truly earns its title when the bands, consciously or not, find some perfect middle ground. While I'd hardly call "Razor Burns" a ballad, it's quite possibly the most earnest and resonant the Decay's ever been, while sacrificing nothing of their power. Meanwhile, "And Pass Away" finds Wayfarer building a song around a massive and wonderfully memorable hook that could have a crowd screaming along.

When you take it all in, Decayfarer makes a hell of a lot of sense. It's the sound of two bands with the potential to reach far beyond their regional scenes. It also sets a peculiar benchmark for both of them to meet the next time out. Can future Decay sound this dynamic without Wayfarer? Can future Wayfarer sound so thrilling without the Decay? The bar's been set.