Bayside - Sirens and Condolences (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Sirens and Condolences (2004)


Well, Victory has a new darling that it is championing to all of the suburban teenagers of Chicagoland.

Actually, they're not that bad. In fact, I could see quite a few college students liking these guys too.

Let me explain. First of all, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bayside's new album getting quite huge. It's got the right sound, it's got the right label, the right attitude. It even has the right packaging, with a pretty cool photo on the cover–which someone will label "emo," although I nonetheless think it's a good photo (I'm not even going to get into this subject).

So, I guess it's not that these guys are really that bad. I mean, they do what they do fairly well. But on the other hand, it's nothing I haven't heard before. Their songs are a mix between the infamous Alkaline Trio and Chicago legends…Alkaline Trio. Oh wait, did I just say the same band twice? Track seven, "How to Fix Everything" could be something straight off of "From Here to Infirmary," with lines like "The sharper the edge, the cleaner the wound / So I'll be keeping it dull tonight for I deserve to hurt." The lead singer's voice at times also has a striking resemblance to Matt Skiba (well, Matt Skiba in the earlier and middling days). To be fair, sounding like Alkaline Trio is not necessarily a bad thing. Alkaline Trio is still one of my favorite bands, despite any shortcomings or causes for mourning in recent years, and a band could do far worse than to be compared to Alkaline Trio. Bayside does use some keyboards in the background of a few songs, so that is something different. With lots of "oohs" and "ahhs" for back up vocals, I can also see why people think that Bayside sounds a bit like Brand New or The Smiths. They do have a poppier, more upbeat sound on certain tracks, like the opening track "Masterpiece." The singer is pleasant to listen to, I have to say. And the lyrics are actually pretty well written, for the most part, although they are a tad overdramatic at times. Also, they are a bit morbid at times, but I think that's what they're going for on an album titled "Sirens and Condolences." They write about "sad" things and about hurting. Lines like "Nothing is real and I want you to know that I'm not alright / Tear open my chest. I'll try not to flinch" are reminiscent of lyrics similar to Alkaline Trio… additionally, did I mention Alkaline Trio again?? Unfortunately, the album starts off a lot stronger than it ends. The first seven tracks have quite a few hooks that got my attention. Disappointingly, the last two tracks leave me less than satisfied. They kind of blur into a sort of unimportant noise, and do not make me want to put the record on for a second spin. Or maybe it's just that by the end of the album, some of the songs start sounding the same, and by track ten and eleven, I have grown tired of it.

Honestly, I go back and forth with what to think about this album. I was prepared to not like this album. Then as I was reviewing it, I couldn't help but still like parts of it. It seems to cry out to consumers "Like me, dammit! I'm what you want to hear!" And that is also partly why I don't always like it: I don't want to just be fed things that are pleasant to the ear or that are "safe," things that everyone will like. I want an album to surprise me once in a while: it doesn't have to be anything outrageous, but a little bit of intrigue once in a while is always nice. Anyway, for many people, I think this album will be what they want to hear. I guess the only problem I have with it is that it's not that original. It is something that a lot of bands have been doing for quite a while. But Bayside does do it quite well and gives it a new sound. I think I like this album partially because it has a familiar sound, but it is a familiar sound that is fresh and young. At the same time, I can't help but wish that they had taken a few more risks.

I can definitely see why people would like this album, especially all those youngsters out there in suburbia–and a few of us older kids, too. So next time you're in town, don't forget to say hi to the new favorites over at Victory Records, because I think they're going to be around for quite a while.