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Bayside – Shudder

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  1. Melody Bot

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    The fine balance between utter disdain and hopelessness with relentless apathy is essentially what makes Long Island’s Bayside such an unclassifiable rock band. Their combination of depressing emo-centric lyricism and moody exteriors have made them one of the most easy-to-relate-to bands on the Victory roster (after all, how many of us can truly relate to the “bludgeoning” riffs and double-bass drum kicks of metalcore’s elite, hmm?). Take the dark melodic contours of Alkaline Trio, throw in the hazy optimism of Smoking Popes and add a dash of sincere melancholy (with some wicked wit for good measure), and you’ve got your basic Bayside sound.

    With record number four (their third total release of 2008), Shudder, Bayside continues to use the same ingredients in their recipe, because as the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke… why fix it? Bayside has a perfectly-tuned sound with vocalist Anthony Raneri’s indistinguishable pipes (at times sounding like a blend of Josh Caterer and Aaron Weiss) and guitars that wail one minute and drop down the next. The only real problem with Shudder, which is a more optimistic record than their first two, is that it doesn’t retain enough of the anthemic personal triumphs the band showcased on 2007’s The Walking Wounded; the anthems are certainly here, however they begin to die off in the middle somewhere (while exceptional, “I Can’t Go On” steals away a bit of the energy on the first half). In due time, perhaps this new addition to their discography will be their rallying cry, with “A Call to Arms” and “Roshambo (Rock, Paper, Scissors)” soon becoming emblazoned theme songs for the rapidly rebelling youth in this rapidly retrogressive time.

    The main focus here is what the song’s say, who they speak to – which is, frankly… all of us. They are melancholy, yet realized; peppered with ridicule and self-doubt, yet firmly designed to relinquish ourselves from exhaustion of self and to simply achieve. Raneri writes songs for those of us still finding our place in the world, young and old, adding dashes of moody pop and hard-rockin’ solos for what I’d prefer to call “goddamn awesome measure”. Building on the emotion that stems from not only the band’s history, but from their acoustic work (“Moceanu”) – where the songs always come off in a better light –Shudder is 42 minutes of triumph over tragedy, resurgence over pain, happiness over heartbreak. On “I Can’t Go On,” a sprawling canvas of emotional trajectory, Raneri woefully sings out, “Where love is crap, emotion speaks / for us all / What’s really right? / Who’s who to say?” While there is certainly allegations of animosity here, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel (for lack of a better cliche) in Raneri’s songwriting. “My mom always said I was named for a saint / but I never felt I was blessed,” he cries out on first single “No One Understands,” later adding, “It gets harder to believe, it gets harder but / be honest / if the sun don’t shine tomorrow, we’ll survive.” Shudder is poignant and heartfelt in not only its words, but alas, in the way the entire process is conceived.

    Jack O’Shea continues to be the driving force under Raneri’s wings, picking up the energy when things begin to get slow, never allowing these tracks to drag (take “Boy,” for example, playing off the rhythm the rest of the band lays down). Nick Ghanbarian’s floor-shaking bass playing only fires up the moody structure even more, playing well of O’Shea’s energy, yet keeping everything mysterious (“A Call to Arms”). Chris Guglielmo manages to orchestrate the rhythms nice and tight, establishing the tone of each track. The band is skillfully adept at allowing each song to breathe and sound natural, never cluttered by anything that will tinker with the integrity of Raneri’s songwriting.

    The well-oiled machine that made The Walking Wounded continues to chug right along, effectively showing that Shudder may become a sleeper magnet with fans who relate to the way Bayside constructs their broody, muscular pop songs well-hidden under a cloak of shadows and light. Haunting, aggressive, packed with melody – Shudder is another fine step in the right direction for Bayside, even if it might cover the same kind of ground the band has laid claims to.

    They say Bayside is a cult – if that’s true: drink up the punch, put on the robes and dance to the music, because if you haven’t already… you’re missing out on hell of a shindig.

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