Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review of Bayside's "Acoustic Volume 2"

I posted this review a few minutes ago on the Sputnik Music website:

Review Summary: An album for Bayside completists.

In 2005, Bayside put out the original Acoustic album at a delicate point in their history. It was their first release after a tragic van accident that killed drummer, John "Beatz" Hollohan and seriously injured bass player Nick Ghanbarian. The album was a tribute to Hollohan (and Ghanbarian) -- the highlight was a track called "Winter", which was written in remembrance of him. It was also an act of defiance, a raised fist to the universe, declaring "No matter what happens, we will not quit as a band!". Curiously, it has been remembered by many as a live album, although only one of the tracks, "Don't Call Me Peanut", was actually recorded in front of a live audience. (This is probably because the CD version included a live acoustic DVD.) Most of the tracks on Acoustic were reimagined versions of songs that had been previously recorded on Bayside's 2004 eponymous album.

For years, there have been rumors of a follow-up that would feature acoustic versions of some of the songs the band has written in the ensuing thirteen years. Cut to 2018, and, to paraphrase a really bad hip hop song, "Whoomp! Here it is," in the form of Acoustic Volume 2.

Now I'm a huge fan of this band. I have been since the Bayside album, which contained not only their best-known song, "Devotion and Desire", but also a track called "Existing in a Crisis (Evelyn)" which is one of the best eff-my-ex-girlfriend songs ever written. So for me, any new Bayside album is a celebration.

But having said that, while I won't say I'm disappointed by this LP, to me, it's kind of a niche album. If you're already a fan of this band, then it's always great to have a collection of alternate versions of a bunch of songs you already love. Is it likely to do anything to expand Bayside's fan base, though?I doubt it. In virtually all cases, the original versions of these songs are superior to the new stripped-down adaptations presented here. Also, although I'm thrilled to hear acoustic presentations of tracks such as "Sick, Sick, Sick", "Duality" and "Mary", some of the song choices are more questionable. I don't know that I needed acoustic renditions of tracks like "Howard", "Pigsty" or "I Think I'll Be OK". And while I understand the urge to include another version of "Devotion and Desire", which was also recorded on the original "Acoustic" album (like I said, it's their best-known number), I'm a little more mystified about why they'd record "Blame It On Bad Luck" again (even though this is a particularly nice interpretation of the song).

There is one new track here, a slow one called "It Don't Exist". It's kind of pretty, but it's nowhere near being one of the group's best songs. (The verses also sound a little like a knockoff version of "Mary".)

A couple of things I will say in favor of this second acoustic collection, in comparison to the first one: You've got a much fuller sound here, as the full band seems to be included on every track. And for understandable reasons, the overall sound is less mournful.

As I said earlier, I'm more than happy to have Acoustic Volume 2. It helps to scratch my Bayside itch to have something new to listen to in between studio albums. If you've never experienced this band, though, this isn't the place to start. Go back and listen to their other LPs first, and then, if those grab you, you'll find this album to be a nice little bonus.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars