Sound — 4
With the intention of carrying the torch of punk rock in the direction that influential pop punk bands like New Found Glory and Blink-182 were going, Bayside formed in 2000. After taking a few years to get their bearings, they came out with their debut album, "Sirens and Condolences," and from then on, kept a steady pace of releases throughout the past decade, and became a dependable name for newer-school punk music. Their latest album (prior to this one), "Killing Time," received acclaim from plenty of critics, which showed Bayside mixing pop punk with alternative rock in order to put some more hair on the music style's chest. But now, with their sixth studio album, "Cult," the musical recipe of Bayside is starting to become stale.
If you were blindfolded, you could tell from the very beginning that "Cult" was a Bayside album, but you may confuse it with some of the previous albums of theirs, like "Killing Time" or "Shudder." And even if you're familiar with Bayside and a fan of those aforementioned albums, it doesn't exactly mean you'll be in love with "Cult," because the notion that the songs sound just like the songs in their previous albums is evident, and already sucks some of the life from this album. However, one difference that "Cult" provides is more displays of nice guitar skill, with commendable guitar solos in songs like "Big Cheese," "Time Has Come," "Hate Me," "Pigsty" and "Transitive Property." Funny thing is that all of these solos happen within the first half of the album, making the other half much less exciting in comparison. Aside from the solos, the lead guitar plays a lot of lines on top of the rhythm guitars, but oftentimes, the rhythm guitars drown out the lead guitar lines - this takes away from the melody distinction between songs, making many of the songs on the album sound like one large blur of power chord punk riffs. Perhaps the most distinctive track on the entire album is "Objectivist on Fire," and the reason why is because it sounds a lot like a Manchester Orchestra song - whether it's frontman Anthony Raneri's vocals and lyrics, the indie/alt-rock inspired guitars, the slight addition of synths, or the general structure of the song, anyone who's familiar with Manchester Orchestra would pick up on the similarity. But at this point, it's more welcome than being yet another indistinct Bayside song with unremarkable characteristics.
Lyrics — 7
There are two big themes with the lyrics in "Cult." Songs will either be about Raneri's trouble with women, such as in "Hate Me," "You're No Match," "Pigsty," "Something's Wrong," "The Whitest Lie," "Transitive Property" and "Bear With Me"; or his overall inferiority complex, in songs like "Big Cheese," "Stuttering" and "Objectivist on Fire." Though this general observation of the lyrical aspect falls into the curse of homogeneity just like the sound aspect, there are in fact a number of lyrical gems in this album. The choruses in "Big Cheese," "You're No Match" and "Stuttering" are catchy and poignant, and lines like "I'm so fed up with making up for being myself/I'm proud to say I'm flawed but not that much" in "Hate Me," and "Well I do believe that our decline is pre-disposed/but it keeps me on my toes/I can't accept what I can't control" in "Bear With Me" are substantial and stick in your head. "Objectivist on Fire" is the winner in the lyrics category, though. With the specific theme of the song being how love isn't worth it, Raneri projects this theme with the simple-yet-superb recurring line "No one cares for me but me."
Overall Impression — 4
The idea of a band using the same method when making music over and over again is a debatable issue. There have been many cases where fans have been disappointed by a band that ends up going in a different musical direction in their later albums, and have wanted those bands to stick to making music that the band was making at the start. But artists evolve in order to keep making art that will capture people's attention. Making the same thing over and over again will result in productions becoming more and more boring, and that's the case for Bayside's "Cult." Perhaps if this is the first Bayside album you ever listen to, or if you're obsessed with the music style of Bayside, it'll be easier to enjoy the album, but when you take into context that almost nothing is evolving with Bayside's sound, "Cult" is very unimaginative - and that's a fatal flaw for any artform.