Anthony Raneri normally fronts pop-punk outfit Bayside, and his distinctive vocals are the band’s clear trademark. That quality, so winsome for Bayside, unfortunately makes Raneri’s first solo EP, entitled New Cathedrals, sound less like a new venture and more like Bayside-lite.
The five tracks here lack both the traditional emotive quality of Bayside’s best work (e.g. “Winter”, “Montauk”) and also the band’s more acidic punk-rock side (e.g. “Blame It On Bad Luck”). The EP isn’t really bad; it just doesn’t add anything of value to Raneri’s very respectable catalog.
Of the offerings, “The Ballad of Bill the Saint” has the best vocal runs even if the lyrics are a bit average (“Hey I hate this game/it hasn’t always been this way”). “Lead, Follow, Fail” has an interesting, 8-bit style key intro before the song devolves into forgettable lyrics. “Sandra Partial” and “Charleston”, the EP’s first two songs, are so despicably pop-flavored and mediocre as to be embarrassing to the listener. Any casual fan of Bayside has heard Raneri do better.
The only track you’ll want to keep around is closer “Please Don’t Leave”, featuring Raneri’s voice over bare guitar and light percussion. It’s expressive and simple, and this arrangement exposes traces of raw emotion in the vocals. It is, in short, everything that’s good about Raneri’s music generally. It’s as though he was warming up to reach this point — here, finally, is the musician that fans (this writer included) rave about. Sadly, though, it’s just a tease before the EP grinds to a halt.
The best that can really be said of New Cathedrals (aside from best unintentionally ironic title ever?) is that it makes you want to listen to Bayside. Raneri’s a gifted musician, but this EP just doesn’t do him justice.
Essential Track: “Please Don’t Leave”