Failure to move forward: Basement’s “Beside Myself”

(Fueled by Ramen.)

The late 2000s and early 2010s saw a renaissance of alternative and punk rock bands. Some prominent acts spearheading this movement were Balance and Composure, Title Fight, La Dispute, and Basement. These bands defined the genre for the early part of the current decade.

However, as the times and music trends evolved, so did these groups – all of them drastically changing their sounds and adapting to the ever-changing musical climate.

All of them except Basement.

After 2016’s mediocre “Promise Everything,” I had expected “Beside Myself,” the band’s fourth studio album, to exhibit some sort of meaningful sonic shift. Instead, the album retreads many of the same steps Basement took on their seminal “Colourmeinkindness.”

In short, “Beside Myself” is a watered-down mishmash of what used to make the band special. And, unfortunately, their sound no longer works in 2018.

Basement’s music has always been heavily inspired by Nirvana and with the exception of the acoustic “Changing Lanes,” that’s what we get here. Any opportunity to innovate or take chances has been ignored as the band nostalgically looks back to 2012 – a year many music lovers wish they could forget.

With the opening line of the album, vocalist Andrew Fisher asks, “Can I go back to where I started?” Which is ironic given that Basement seems to be stuck in the same place they started.

While none of the members of Basement have ever been virtuosos of their respective instruments, they managed to make standout grunge rock tunes backed by truly standout lyrics by Fisher. Tracks such as “Covet” and “Bad Apple,” solidified Basement as one of the most lyrically competent of their contemporaries.

On the other hand, “Beside Myself” delivers some of the most laughable lyrics I’ve heard in 2018. On the opening verse of “Keepsake,” Fisher sings, backed by bright guitars, “Who are you to tell me I’m just a boy? / What gives you the right to make all of the rules,” a line that’s a bit too Holden Caulfield to be coming from a man in his late-20s/early-30s.

The song’s chorus picks up, “Can you put me in your pocket? / Let me be your lucky charm / I’m right here waiting / So come and use me.” The corniness of these lyrics and Fisher’s tone singing them legitimately made me laugh out loud on my first listen.

“Changing Lanes,” the sole acoustic track on the album, features a trudging chord progression and Fisher just barely staying on key as he sings, “I struggle to find the right words to say / And as we’re changing lanes / At an alarming rate / I close my eyes and drive as I pray.” It’s a somber song that is hindered by everything but its lyrics. The skeletal guitar and piano make the track feel like an unfinished demo that would greatly benefit from being fleshed out.

At around 40 minutes, “Beside Myself” is by no means an overly long album, but listening to weak and predictable, yet somehow unmemorable vocal harmonies one after the other, it’s hard not to want to turn the record off halfway through.

The exceedingly sentimental and nostalgic lyrics don’t help either.

After multiple listens, there’s really nothing at all that stands out on this record. From the amateurish album art to the lackluster lyrics and just passable instrumentation, every single aspect of this project is a downgrade from when Basement first formed nearly a decade ago.

 

Grade: D 

I’m beside myself with disappointment.

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