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Punk outfit shake off past tragedy with a shudder

It’s nearly impossible to discuss Bayside without mentioning Oct. 31, 2005, the day drummer John “Beatz” Holohan died tragically in a car accident while the band was on tour. 
Bassist Nick Ghanbarian sustained critical injuries but has since recovered. 
Over three years since the incident, New York’s Bayside has released four albums, including one acoustic and one live album.
Most fans consider these weak compared to Bayside’s first two releases, 2004’s “Sirens and Condolences” and 2005’s self-titled album. However, the band’s latest release, “Shudder,” resurrects some semblance of Bayside’s earlier work.
“Shudder” brings rather optimistic themes, which interestingly contrasts against its stereotypically “emo” song titles such as “No One Understands” and “I Can’t Go On.” In both these songs, however, lead vocalist Anthony Raneri injects a positive attitude into the lyrics.
In the album’s first single, “No One Understands,” he sings, “It gets harder but be honest if the sun don’t shine tomorrow, we’ll survive.” It’s evident his outlook on life has changed since he wrote “Blame It On Bad Luck” in 2005.
Not only does Raneri seem to be more confident lyrically, but his vocal performance has also changed, especially on the anthemic opening track, “Boy.” With the help of producer David Schiffman (Finger Eleven, Rilo Kiley, Guster), Raneri sounds less like himself – less raw, less emotional and more auto-tuned. He especially doesn’t sound like himself when he mimics friend amd Smoking Popes vocalist Josh Caterer’s soulful voice. Luckily, Raneri regains his characteristic belt on “No One Understands” and “What and What Not,” a song that acts as a lyrical sequel to 2005’s “Montauk.”
It’s almost as if Bayside’s last release, 2007’s “The Walking Wounded,” was completely forgotten, because “Shudder” sounds like a seamless transition from “Bayside.”
Instrumentally, the band follows its tried and true formula – loud but melodic. Drummer Chris Guglielmo’s work is reminiscent of that of Beatz, which leaves the seasoned Bayside listener with a happy feeling, knowing the sound doesn’t change despite the altered line-up. 
“I Think I’ll Be Okay” and “Rochambo (Rock, Paper, Scissors)” especially highlight Guglielmo’s ability to smoothly transition between fast beats and more rhythmic points. “Rochambo” also features a beautiful guitar solo from lead guitarist Jack O’Shea.
“Shudder’s” stand-out tracks are “Howard,” an ode to Howard Hughes, and the cynical “Have Fun Storming the Castle,” the latter being a true definition of what Bayside stands for with Raneri announcing, “The revolution will be marketed / we’ll all just be pawns in the matter / If it comes between the trends and the truth, then I will proudly march with the latter.”
As with every Bayside album, “Shudder” features one acoustic song. Luckily, “Moceanu,” a rather quirky tune, comes at the end of the album. It dosen’t fit in with the other tracks, with its odd, waltzing backing vocals from O’Shea and Ghanbarian and its overly creative lyrics that employ spelling and pessimism (“I’m s-i-c-k of my meaningless life”).
“Shudder” will be most appreciated by Bayside’s long-time fans and those of Smoking Popes, Motion City Soundtrack and Saves the Day. 
Overall, “Shudder” is most similar to the band’s self-titled album, which was the last to feature Beatz. It seems Bayside has made a full recovery from that fateful Halloween in 2005, though Ghanbarian’s talents are only minutely exhibited. 
Even so, for the most melodic punk rock album of 2008, look no further than “Shudder.”
Victory; 2008
Grade: B
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