Bayonne - Drastic Measures - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bayonne - Drastic Measures

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2019-02-22
Bayonne - Drastic Measures
Bayonne - Drastic Measures

For as long as there have been artists making music for the entertainment of others, there have been songs written about life on the road, and the tough balances troubadours have always had to make for their craft. I’m betting that even the wandering minstrels of medieval days had a tune or two under their belts that dealt with what a drag it could be getting from one town to the other when they would rather be at home. While Willie Nelson couldn’t wait to get “On The Road Again”, Bob Segar’s “Turn The Page” made the life of a touring musician sound about as appealing as that of a ditch digger by comparison.

For a 2019 perspective on this condition, we have “Drastic Measures” by Austin, Texas’s own Bayonne. Roger Sellers, as he was known before the release of his last album, “Primitives” in 2016, uses sharp lyrics, a strong countertenor voice and imposingly grand music to create his vision of the life he has chosen, with all of the sacrifices and roller coaster emotions front and center.

None of that is to say that “Drastic Measures” is a morose “woe is me” kind of album. While the lyrics can sometimes be on the dispiriting side of the spectrum, the vocals and orchestral soundscapes Sellers has created lean toward the optimistic and give the listener an enchanting example of how one-man band electronica could, and should, be done.

A prime example is “QA”. which opens the recording. While the lyric mentions broken hearts and laying low, the choral opening and throbbing bass line combine with a pleasant little melody to hand us a tune way too gorgeous to be depressing. This would be right at home on anyone’s “music to make love to” compilation, (With the, uh, slight exception of the last 30 seconds or so, which wind down into a crash and burn finale!)

Next, we have the title song, which highlights a choppy rhythm and some exceptional keyboard work. Sellers has been tickling the ivories since he was a child, and that experience shows through on numerous cuts of the disc. The lyric “Taking drastic measures / for the ride. / Promising my family and the friends I never see / that I’m alive” give us the theme of the work in words needing no interpretation.

The following three songs, “Same”, “Gift” and “Enders” roll into each other without a break, but each has its own sound and personality. “Same” is piano driven and highly melodic while “Gift’ uses repeating patterns. The first few bars morph into a “needle stuck in a vinyl scratch” piano riff, complete with a clicking sound all of us old school vinyl listeners used to dread. Sellers’ vocal quickly breaks up the repetition and gives the song another identity altogether.

“Enders” is fully instrumental and makes use of some interesting field recordings Sellers spent the last decade collecting. One such example is the creaking of an oven door used extensively on the backdrop but manipulated to the extent that the listener would never identify it as such. It gives the song a more ominous feel than most and foreshadows the apocalyptic ending that jars the senses.

A whistling, wind chime keyboard pattern gives “I Know” a heavy pop flavor, while “Kind” launches into full electronica over a majestic piano opening. Subdued percussion and an echo-laden vocal blend together to result in a sublime musical experience. I vote for “Kind” as the album’s first single.

Pulsating and sharp percussion drives “Uncertainly Deranged” while the keyboard work creates an orchestral landscape of sonic pleasure. This is one of Sellers’ more biting lyrics, but the music belies the discontent to present a rather schizophrenic experience. Considering the song’s title, I’m guessing that was the aim.

“Abilia” opens with another ethereal backdrop before surrendering to a fast-paced dance beat that carries the tune into another dimension. Once again, we get an ending that seems to strip the song down a piece at a time before a single choral note finishes it off.

The opening sounds of closer “Bothering” have a vague undersea gurgle to them, but then Bayonne slaps us with the most impressive piano and vocal pairing on the disc. The best was truly saved for last here, as this anthem puts Sellers’ considerable talent on full display in the storefront window. The keyboard work alone is mesmerizing to absorb and the vocal borders on perfection. I believe coming up with a better send off to “Drastic Measures” would be an experience in futility.

If you are fortunate enough to catch Bayonne on tour as the album is promoted, expect a rather unusual outlier at his merchandise table. Sellers has also created his own brand of hot sauce “Bitchin’ Bayonne”, and currently it is only available at his concerts or online store. This only makes sense for an Austin native, since the city is also famous for its tex-mex and barbecue food venues. Therefore, no matter where you might find Bayonne performing, a little piece of the Texas capital city is readily available.

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