Review Summary: Goodbye, shitty. You never came.The Long Island Sound: A Reflection on Suburban New York’s Musical History – Part 3
When it comes to the Long Island pop-punk/emo scene, the two bands that get all the limelight are Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. Now, while that’s not entirely unjustified (after all, those two are incredibly talented groups), Bayside has always been the third wheel, without all the former’s critical acclaim and the latter’s signature hit songs. In fact, the town of Bayside, in which the band got their name from, isn’t even on Long Island – technically, it’s inside New York City borders. In spite of its location on the geographical island but not the colloquial island, the quartet fronted by Anthony Raneri maintain a strong cult fanbase (hell, the band itself realizes this) even if the commercial success hasn’t exactly come through yet.
The one-two punch of “Hello Shitty” and “Devotion and Desire” kicks off the band’s self-titled sophomore record in fast and furious fashion – all it takes is the honking of horns from the weekday Northern Boulevard traffic before the madness ensues. Despite clocking in at only barely over one minute, the anger-infused track combines Raneri’s snarling vocals with impressive fast drumming by the late John “Beatz” Holohan that flawlessly fades into the album’s lead single. “Devotion and Desire” remains one of the band’s most popular songs eleven years later, and for damn good reason – Anthony’s cries of “You’re not ready! You’re not ready! Please, stop acting like you are!” are filled with perhaps the most passion he has ever had in his whole career as a vocalist, while the instrumentation has the band at its most energetic as a whole.
While Anthony Raneri may appear to be the band’s X-factor, guitarist Jack O’Shea takes the helm on multiple tracks, even lending background vocals every once in a while. Whether it be the solo on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-themed “Montauk” or the infectious riffage on “Blame It on Bad Luck”and “Half a Life”, the guitar is an essential component of the band’s memorability. Even if he may not be innovative to the pop-punk genre, O’Shea’s work on Bayside
contains some of the best riffs he’s ever played. At the same time, it’d be hard to overlook Beatz Holohan’s drumwork – give him the sticks, and he will play his heart out for sure. His fills were never complex, but the energy and raw power that comes when his wooden weapons attack the metal and acrylic is pure bliss. The band’s 2005 effort was unfortunately his only album as a part of Bayside’s lineup; in the early morning of Halloween, roughly a month after the eponymous record was released, their tour bus flipped over after hitting a patch of ice outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. Anthony and Jack escaped the carnage unscathed, but Holohan and bassist Nick Ghanbrian were both put into critical condition.
Only Ghanbrian survived.
It’s a scenario that I still ponder today as I walk down the sidewalks of Bayside’s most popular thoroughfare, Bell Boulevard, the same streets that the members of the band walked down as adolescents. How would Bayside be today if Holohan was still around to pound the hell out of those drums for them? Part of what made their second album their best one yet was its solid instrumentation, and Beatz was a damn vital part of it. I shove the headphones further down my pants and gaze up at the afternoon sky, with the sun beating down upon the cracked, pothole-attacked pavement. For a while, it seemed like every new Bayside album was worse than the previous one, with 2008’s Shudder
being a decrease in quality from 2007’s The Walking Wounded
, which was already a step down from this. Although the band’s brand of fast, riff-induced pop-punk is what got them famous in the first place, it doesn’t take a lot of heart to appreciate the emotion that is contained within “Don’t Call Me Peanut”, perhaps one of Bayside’s finest acoustic ballads, even if it is a rare occurrence amongst their discography.
It’s no surprise that Bayside
contains some of the band’s highest points in their whole careers – “Tortures of the Damned” contains some of Raneri’s most eloquent lyricism (“If I only had an axe, I'd sever the ties I've made with the world” hits pretty deep), while “Montauk” wins the riffage contest, plus it’s also got some pretty great use of vocal distortion. The slip-ups are few and far between, but they are rather noticeable. Although “We’ll Be O.K.” starts off with some pretty nice guitar, it drags on for four and a half minutes, going nowhere while plodding on and on while Raneri cries “I got sex, you got fame” with such annoying intonation that it just has to be the final nail in the coffin. The same mishap plagues the deathwish anthem“Existing in a Crisis (Evelyn)” and to a lesser part “They Looked Like Strong Hands”, which halts the momentum from 100 to 0 following the crowd-rousing thrill of the record’s first three songs.
”My first attack, I'll put a knife against your throat and cut an inch for every time I lost my self-control.”
I’m walking through the Bay Terrace shopping center when I suddenly come across a Barnes and Noble with a vast music section. There are thousands of CDs spread through multiple shelves, organized alphabetically. I pass the “A”s – AC/DC, Adele, Alice in Chains, Avenged Sevenfold – before my fingers pass over the “B” divider. This is their hometown, they oughta have loads of Bayside albums here in Bayside, right? I scan through quickly – Bad Company, Bad Religion, Barenaked Ladies… Beastie Boys
. “Goddamn it!” I cried, slamming my fists onto the mounds of shrink-wrapped cases. “What the hell?”
I stormed out of the store in disbelief, running around the mall to see if there were any other shops that sold music. Unfortunately, there were none. Apparently, hometown glory meant nothing to the town of Bayside – the same town that brought us the world-famous Perry Farrell, Charlie Chaplin and Ron Jeremy. Granted, Anthony Raneri and Company may never be as famous as them, but fame doesn’t mean anything unless it translates to quality music, and for Bayside, they don’t need the former if they’re able to churn out music like this.
PART IV: Nice going, asshole.
This review is dedicated to John “Beatz” Holohan (1974-2005).