Review Summary: Solid effort from 8 year pop-punk veterans Bayside, on their 5th studio album. Nothing that will blow your mind, but a fun romp at the least...
Not being much of a Bayside listener, in fact knowing basically next to nothing about the band, I did not know what to expect when I downloaded this. What I did know was that the band lost its drummer, John Holohan, in a van accident before the recording of their last release, The Walking Wounded. I had heard a few tracks from that particular album, and was surprised by the gloom and grimness of the work. After hearing that Shudder was to be more upbeat album more in the style of true radio friendly pop-punk, I first thought it would be a giddy, generic romp just like most music in the genre is. However, I can honestly say I was surprised at the start and close of this one. As a casual fan, yet constant detractor of the wonderfully bland pop-punk genre, I can honestly say this is a stagnant musical style, played at its best...at least for the first three tracks or so.
Let me begin by saying that the first three tracks of this CD are pure euphoria, but are in themselves, sort of a blatant contradiction. Boy, Ghost of St. Valentine, and No One Understands are both incredibly catchy, featuring upbeat, giddy pop-punk instrumentation comparable somewhat to Does this Look Infected era Sum 41, laid behind rather morbid, gloomy lyrics. The songs feel sort of contradictory, but generate a fuzzy feeling. The song Boy, the best one on Shudder features a strong chorus, which is repeated to form a huge outro, which creates the best moment on the album. A heavy drum beat and cymbals back up heavy power chords sung in an upbeat tune to the depressing words of:
"Go on, give up, you'll never win
No crying now, they're watching him
His blood will boil, the kids will sing.
Learn to drown before you learn to swim."
If only the band had been able to continue the euphoria for the rest of Shudder, but that's all listeners can say...if only. For whatever reason, the remaining nine tracks lack the passion and the conviction of the first three. They aren't bad, just above average, which is the feeling that you are left with at the album's close. Tracks such as I Can't Go On, and Demons have the potential to be great, but never really achieve said potential. The only other highlights are the band's tribute to Howard Hughes, titled Howard and the anguished Have Fun Storming The Castle.
The instrumentation and musical structure of Shudder is pretty much the standard pop-punk fare, thick, multiple variations of power chords with the occasional riff or solo, with bass nearly identical to the chords. The drumming is above average, being a bit more creative than the average band, and the vocals are very good. The music is nothing that will break any new ground or start any new trends, but is a tried and true standard of the genre, and does its work in complementing the singing. Another thing worth pointing out, much in the style of the new House of Heroes release, the music sometimes carries a sort of theatrical atmosphere, again adding to this band's unique style.
Anthony Raneri's voice, although not on the level of the elite, is solid, not nasally and pre-pubescent like many of his peers. His songwriting, thoughtful and deep, is a step above the rest. The lyrics on Shudder are much more mature than your standard pop-punk relationship song. His lyrics seem to rest more in the sector of self-reflection and inner turmoil, which makes for a more interesting listen.
Bottom Line: This CD is not going to be album of the year, but it should receive solid reception from critics and fans alike. It is a safe, fun effort that does not really break from the norm, yet keeps things fresh most of the way through. It peaks early, but never hits a rock bottom.
The Clear Best
The Ghost of St. Valentine
No One Understands