Bayside – Shudder

Band: Bayside
Album: Shudder
Genre: Rock
Label: Victory

1. Boy
2. The Ghost of St. Valentine
3. No One Understands
4. What and What Not
5. A Call To Arms
6. I Can’t Go On
7. Demons
8. Have Fun Storming The Castle
9. Howard
10. Roshambo
11. I Think I’ll Be Ok
12. Moceanu
When we at UTG get albums from bands we love, it’s always a very cautious time, Why is that? Well, it’s simple, we expect more from bands we love than the random ones that come through every week. This was very apparent when Shudder, the new album from Bayside, hit my desk sometime last week. Now, I’m no plain fan of Bayside’s music, no, I consider myself part of the cult that is Bayside and their fans. Every album has only gotten better and to say I expected this to continue is no understatement. Though, I fear my beloved boys from the NYC/Long Island area may have taken a step backwards in the progression they’ve worked so hard to achieve.

As Bayside was beginning to reveal details about Shudder, Anthony Raneri, the frontman of the group, said the band wanted to make a very straightforward rock record. I believe there may have been hints at a punk type theme to some extent, but really he should have jsut said they wanted to simplify because from the get go it’s apparent that they’ve done just that. “Boy,” the kickoff track starts a t full speed with some wonderful piano overlays before the band falls into the slightly relaxed verse sections that they’ve become known for. Raneri sounds clean as ever and the instrumentation is spot on. The record as a whole does sound a bit rougher than the previous, but I think that’s fitting for what’s being done on the album as a whole. The chorus here [which was revealed in the groups mini viral marketing campaign] is possibly the best on the whole record and that, of course, is a double edged sword. To me, this song is everything that’s great about Bayside: songs you can relate to with perfect lyrics and pacing. However, the guitar part is very repetitive and the band seems to not have that large sound they brought last time around. Though, gang vocals and time changes near the end seal it as a instant Bayside classic. Up next, “The Ghost of St. Valentine,” which once again starts at full steam and let’s us get a small taste of the great guitar work the band’s other guitar player, Jack, has become known for. The verse is very laid back like most tracks on the band’s self titled release and the chorus soars. it’s easily one of the album’s top three tracks and has a very god bridge that brings in more lyrics that people will swallow whole and teens will want to scream into pillows when they’re angry at night. This then takes us to the single, “No One Understands.” From the get go, you know this is the single for the album. Much like “Duality,” this one starts less abrasively and remains that way throughout. It’s great for the radio, but I fear some Bayside fans will catch on to how this track doesn’t really fit the flow the album has had so far. Which then leaves us torn, because it’s a solid track, but it feels out of place here. This is the kind of song I think Anthony could write with both eyes closed and I just expect more since they’re now 4 full lengths of original material into their career.

“What and What Not,” is like a b-side from the self titled record. The drums feel very weak, but Raneri rocks the lyrics quite well. However, there’s something about the chorus that grows old a bit to quick for me. There’s a fine line between catchy song writing and annoying and I feel that this song dances across that picket fence. The track overall has a very rough feel to it, but once again, that’s the sound they wanted so it works for me. The fifth song, “A Call To Arms,” almost comes across with a Psychobilly sound and, for lack of better phrasing, is just not a good fit for the band. I’m alright with experimenting with sounds and new ideas that you feel the desire to loose, but this one, like the radio single, just feels to simple overall sound wise. I mean, to make a driving rock record is fine, but don’t lose your technicality altogether in order to achieve this. Luckily, just as you start to think this, Jack comes in with a blazing guitar solo and salvages a song that was in dire need of such a savior. I’m going to count this as the band’s one opportunity to save a song with a great solo. That’s a one trick pony and not one you can just whip out whenever. “I Can’t Go On,” is the next stop on Shudder and features some solid guitar work, but struggles on pacing issues. Raneri maintains a mainly apathetic tone throughout, which fits the music, but struggle to keep us interested. Musically, I think this is a solid step for the group, but it feels like there should be something it’s building to and we never seem to reach that destination.

“You can never really win, not to say you’re born to lose, you were born to take 10th place, out of 20 in the field,” is the opening lines to the made for teen America, “Demons.” This is the Bayside song I’ve been waiting to hear since the second track on this disc. The guitars are driving and the lyrics about hating who you’ve become are something everyone in my generation can probably relate to. As long as people make it this far in the disc, I’m sure they will find something to love about the album because this is the best song on the entire album. I can’t say anymore without saying too much, but find this song and listen to it right away. This leads into the furious guitar intro to the Princess Bride inspired song title, “Have Fun Storming The Castle.” This song continues the sound of the last track and that’s the one that works for this band. Everything is fast like the band seemed to be going for on this album and technicality and intensity lyrically is beautiful. this then leads into an oddity of a song, but the last of this new found breath of life for the album. “Howard,” a song in which Raneri seems to relate himself to billionaire Howard Hughes, is addictive for reasons beyond me. The story of the track seems to be a discussion on how people just want and want then take and take, but still throw you out after you give them everything you have. I’m sure if teens know the name, they may jump right on this bandwagon. It’s a great metaphor for our current world and hopefully it’ll cause some people to look into the life of the legend of Howard Hughes.

“Roshambo,” the 10th track on the album, starts out heavy as can be and moves into a driving, Sum 41 like pace and rhythm. Raneri’s more relaxed voice doesn’t match up well with the speed of the verses and causes the track to stumble, but solid drum work comes in to save the day. The chorus, which is made for the youth of america to raise fists to, is very solid, but the verses just feel very awkward and make the track as a whole a bit difficult to completely stomach. “I Think I’ll Be Okay,” the last rock driven song on the album is old school Bayside and goes down quite smooth. IT’s a pretty straightforward rock song and has very obvious Matt Skiba influence, but it’s so good, Like, I listened to it on repeat 4 times the first time it played good. This track is made even better by the fact that the song before and after it are just nothing in comparison. By following song, I mean the acoustic closer, “Moceanu,” which, just falls flat. Raneri spends the verses spelling, yes, literally spelling out words. “I’m s-i-c-k of my meaningless life where c-h-a-n-c-e-s keep passing me by,” is how the song begins and from there it just gets old, very, very fast. The band tries to change up things with a gang vocals and swaying music, but it’s too late to save this closer.

Bayside is a band that has changed lives. They’ve saved people from jumping off buildings and taught us that more people feel like you do than you can ever imagine. Anthony Raneri is a songwriter for my generation and this album simply does not showcase the band’s talent as much as I had hoped. The group has overcome so much and matured ridiculously over the previous three albums, but Shudder is the weakest album since the band’s Victory debut. It’s hit and miss and just leaves you wishing for more. It’s by no means an awful disc and I’m sure it’ll gain more fans for the band, but I don’t think the cult devotees will be completely satisfied. I would tell you to buy this album on principle alone as Bayside is one of the greatest bands out here, but for you old school fans, don’t get your hopes up too high.

*Written By: James Shotwell*
GRADE: 6.5/10

James Shotwell
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