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8 out of 10
Bayside have had one hell of a journey since their formed eight years ago. Three records, numerous line up changes, constant touring and in 2005 the death of their drummer John "Beatz" Holohan when their tour van crashed, but despite a shopping list of adversity Bayside have returned with their fourth studio record "Shudder" and are exhibiting what they claim to be a decidedly more 'Punk' sound.
The opening track "Boy" has some vague undertones of the Velvet Underground at its start due to lead singer Anthony Raneri's low, almost droning vocals while the guitar riffs are comparable to Iron Maiden style shredding every now and again switching into a more simplistic crunch. With lyrics like, "Learn to drown before you learn to swim" their Emo-Core credentials are evident whilst there are moments that have an almost Stadium Rock quality. "The Ghost of Saint Valentine" explores a more melodic sound akin to So Cal Punk groups such as Social Distortion, while "No One Understands" sounds closer to Jimmy Eat World.
"What and What Not" is suitably dark and brooding though the Pop Punk style vocals steer it away from becoming too dark. It makes perfect sense that Bayside recently toured with Alkaline Trio, given this more 'Punk' direction though they still hold onto a melodic streak. However "A Call to Arms" sits closer to Sum 41 style Pop Punk, albeit without being quite as cliché.
"I Can't Go On" is reminiscent of the work of Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie/ The Postal Service), featuring not only similar vocals but conjuring a foreboding and almost medicated kind of atmosphere complete with soaring crescendos. "Demons" sound like piece of finely crafted 'myspace poetry', complete with MTV references, to a cardboard cut out Pop Punk backing of treblely bass and uber fast palm muted riffs stumbling into soaring lead parts, which are also present in "Have Fun Storming the Castle".
"Howard" is probably the strangest song I have heard in about five minutes (there is some pretty wild stuff floating around the cities of South Korea you see). It primarily appears to be a Ramones style break neck ballad about Howard Hughes. Hughes was probably one of the most enigmatic and fascinating heroes of 20th century America and certainly worth writing a song about, as he is easily up there with Ron Jeremy in terms of cultural importance. "Roshambo" (Rock, Paper, Scissors) is of a similar ilk but has no notable cultural references or mention of any prolific Americans of the 20th century and therefore has less chance of being used on the National Geographic channel, although it's title does make reference to a game that is popular amongst South Korean school children, but then I am sure you could of lived out your life quite happily without knowing that. Yet I would not be able to live out mine happily if I had not informed you of that and likewise I feel it is of great importance to inform you, dear reader, that the last track of Bayside's latest offering is a markedly different from the rest of the record. It reminded me of the last track of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers landmark "Blood Sugar Sex Magik", which was a lightening fast skiffle rendition of Robert Johnson's "They're Red Hot", which contrasted so differently with the flowing and hedonistic Funk Rock found on every other track.
Bayside's last track "Moceanu" starts as a haunting Gypsy Folk ballad more akin to Devendra Banhart or Gogol Bordello than Alkaline Trio. It trips into Tom Waits territory here and there, while there are dark movements in the shadows of this track: it sounds wide and spacey, yet cosy, almost like it was recorded by candle light in a cavernous space. Your attention is therefore focused on one small place but you know there is much more else out there, you just cannot see it yet.
"I liked reality when it was a dream"
A stark ending to a record that at first may sound relatively superficial but in fact holds many of the scars and half forgotten dreams of Bayside's chequered past.
2. The Ghost of Saint Valentine
3. No One Understands
4. What and What Not
5. A Call to Arms
6. I Can’t Go On
8. Have Fun Storming the Castle
10. Roshambo (Rock, Paper, Scissors)
11. I Think I’ll Be Ok