Bayside - There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive (2024)

Hopeless records

It's no secret I'm very much a fan of the Victory Records era. Their samples put me on to a host of bands I'd forever cling to: Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and, least of all, Bayside. (I wish things worked out for that label BTW -- that finale wasn't a good look). Ahem, now Bayside is back with, for all intents and purposes, a banger. Their ninth LP, There Are Worse Things Than Being Alive, might have that morose existentialism of a Menzingers record, but there is a pop, bounce and fizz that reminds even the harshest of critics that Bayside are indeed ageing like fine wine.

After listening to this more than a few times, I'm tempted to say it's front-loaded. Every time it spins, I think that. But as each song progresses, I'm inclined to fall into that cliched territory of just letting the album go on and on. It has such high replay value, it doesn't matter which track you begin with, or end with. Off the cuff, "The Devils" signals ferocious intent. It has that hard edge you know Bayside pack, with deep cuts that fans of AFI, Atreyu and even Ice Nine Kills (who actually make a guest appearance on the record) can latch onto. 

Bit by bit, Bayside keep unfurling what makes them so strong: from power-pop to some slight metalcore (before that became a thing) to an aggressive emo-essence that helped define an era in the 2000s and 2010s. Songs like "Castaway" and "Go To Hell" are rife with catchy hooks, spawling riffs, anthemic choruses and walls of sounds -- both loud and soft -- that highlight how well this band knows to temper its various eras. Whether it be the raw, gritty Victory days or the poppier Hopeless Records epoch. What makes these tracks stand out is the ideation of it all; something I'm glad bands like Alkaline Trio, Blink 182, NFG, Alien Ant Farm, Jimmy Eat World, Sum 41 are doing in their music as well. 

If something ain't broke, don't tamper with it. If something is broke, just go back to what works. Bayside, like these other bands, know how to evolve and roll with the times and punches. All these jams are what bands like Knuckle Puck, Belmont, Violent Soho, Free Throw and Hot Mulligan aim for. Even if you're into Avenged Sevenfold and Funeral for a Friend (which means you should be yelling at the cloud and grimacing from back pain), you can appreciate the deft way Bayside captures that spirit of youth while appealing to the 'cheesier' pop punk audiences. Some songs are sonically different from the days of "Masterpiece" but most cater to old fans and new in the most accessible way. This way, they keep you, the listener, feeling young. While selling out (I guess???) in the best way possible.

Like the last AK3 record, I love this exploration of identity and how songs like "Good Advice" and "Say So Long" with its skate-punk energy simply tweak the vintage with the new and morph into a nu-classic Bayside. They already have an extensive discography that catalogs both styles, but here, it's remarkable how they can be poppier yet heavier. Seriously, it feels like the intent here is to tell fans, as both styled wed, not to let that fire inside die, even in the '40s.

Almost every track deserves props, to be honest. This record has me anxiously anticipating #10 and eager to hear them live. Anthony Ranieri sounds on point, and judging from the distinct, clean production here, I think these songs are worth an album play-along on tour. Fans will eat these jams up. Ultimately, "I'm So Happy I Could Die" sums it up best as a closer. Bayside is a cult that believes in keeping generations together. This song's acoustic spine and the way it gets brash begins like it belongs on an indie movie soundtrack. Something fans of Oso Oso and Runaway Brother would love. Only to end with a crescendo that's perfect for dive bars, music fests or a long-ass drive with the ones you love. And those who started the Bayside journey with you. It's comforting and takes you home with a message that is counterintuitive to the song title and album title. Bayside might not say it overtly, but they want us all to keep kicking on and believing.