Bayside has a wealth of early material to boast about, but the band has continued to improve and impress as it has aged. The group’s most recent LP, Killing Time, proved to be one of its strongest records, as Bayside executed with excruciatingly enjoyable precision the formula we’ve grown to love it by. While fans wait patiently for another full batch of Bayside tunes, the New York natives offer up the Covers, Vol. I EP, a collection of five cover songs designed to hold fans over until new music arrives.
The one thing that Bayside does very well on this covers EP – and the EP’s strongest characteristic, in fact – is that the band does a helluva job making these songs sound like Bayside songs. Anthony Raneri’s nasally vocals and Jack O’Shea’s persistent shredding on the guitar are accounted for and produced brilliantly – just because these aren’t original tunes doesn’t mean Bayside took the easy road on this release.
“Be My Baby” opens the EP, and Bayside’s take on the Ronettes’ song that helped make Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound a household term is an enjoyable ride. The guitar work is naturally a strength, with the harmonies and vocal overlays in the chorus providing another nice touch. It wouldn’t be complete without a solo from O’Shea in the bridge, and he doesn’t disappoint. “Runaway” (originally by Del Shannon) sounds musically the most like something we’d find on a Bayside album, with a double-time drumbeat and dark undertones.
The highlight of the release comes in the form of closer “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Paying homage to its home state, Bayside’s take on the Billy Joel classic leans, like the other songs do, on the familiarity and nostalgia of the original while infusing interesting bits that make this version special. For this track, Joel’s original piano composition gets treated in the form of some gnarly riffage from O’Shea, and Raneri delivers his best vocal performance on the release. The familiar riff near the end of the original track sounds awesome delivered in the form of distorted guitar licks, and this rendition leaves you itching to start it over as much as it makes you want to spin the original.
The thing with a covers EP is that you’re probably only going to like it as much as you like the originals. I think “Movin’ Out” is the best number here regardless of prior attachments to the original tracks, but Billy Joel also happens to be an artist that I got a heavy dose of in my childhood from my dad…so my opinion isn’t without some natural bias. Hearing one of your favorite bands cover a song that reminds you of past times is always a treat for fans, and with Covers, Vol. 1, Bayside shows that it’s still very much in tune with what will make its fans happy. I’m hoping for more volumes like this one in between future Bayside records.