Bayonne’s Drastic Measures is a frustrating beast. It’s shot through with moments of quality and accomplishment, promising much but ultimately failing to amount to anything. This collection of crystalline, piano-infused numbers is tidily put together, but a lack of edge means it ends up feeling anonymous.
The Austin-native’s second album sits in a place somewhere between chillwave and pop balladry. It’s its occupation of this in-between space that engenders the frustration. It seems strange to ask of an album to fit better into one box or another. Nonetheless, it would result in a more distinctive record if Roger Sellers, the musician behind the name, would fully embrace either the wobbly wistfulness of the former, or the full-on R’n’B-tinged pop of the latter. Or even if one element was pulled off with a bit more flair.
As it is, we’re left wondering if Bayonne lacks the ideas for one and the chutzpah for the other. Maybe this is uncharitable. In the interests of balance, it’s worth saying this sort of treatment is reserved for albums you really want to like, but cannot in good faith recommend. Sellers’ previous album, 2016’s Primitives suffers from similar issues, though in the cold light of day it’s better release.
Some qualifications: this is a warm, pleasant record. There are certainly numbers – opener “QA”, “Same”, “Uncertainly Deranged” – which suggest a Toro y Moi-like sensibility; a comparison by which this particular aesthetic mix of piano, crooning, and twinkling electronics profits. Gawd, the half-arsed conceit of “Uncertainly Deranged” is grim though, innit?
On the other hand, there’s a distinct mid-album lull, with a couple of numbers (“I know” in particular) that sound like they’re aimed at soundtracking a crap advertisement for ‘experiences’ aimed at idiots. You can almost hear the voice over reeling off the prices.
Probably, there is a market for this kind of thing. People for whom the term ‘inoffensive’ sounds like a compliment. It could quite happily purr and tinkle away in the background of a chain coffee shop, punctuated by bursts of hot steam and complemented by light chatter. There are even pieces – the title track is one – which sound like they might aid in the getting off to sleep of a small child (this is not an insult).
Outside of said context, we could all do better that this. Rog included.
Release: 22ndFebruary 2019, City Slang