I’ve been a Bayside fan long enough to follow them through quite a few changes. While so many of their contemporaries have fallen by the wayside and disappeared from my music collection, I’ve stuck with Bayside because they’ve managed to grow alongside me, both musically and as individuals.
With recent discussions about cancel culture and forbidden fruit in mind, I look to Bayside as an example of how to acknowledge past insufficiency.
It’s no secret their early lyrics are misogynistic to the point of horrific, with 2004’s Sirens and Condolences and 2005’s Bayside being the worst perpetrators.
Case in point, “Existing in a Crisis (Evelyn)”:
I’m so tired of the stupid games you play.
If I sat outside would you come watch me wait?
If I had a gun and shot it at your face,
would you promise not to get out of the way?
Following a van accident in 2005 that left their drummer dead and their bass player with a broken back, Bayside changed quite a bit. Their disposition shifted from that of the violent lover who’d been spurned to the hopeful punk aiming for a better attitude.
It’s at this point a radical self-awareness began to emerge in their music, perhaps best exemplified in the song, “I & I” off 2007’s The Walking Wounded:
I’ve got a stage and a mic
Which I use to say things you won’t like
But I spent years thinking I was alone.
In regards to gender specifically, their music took on a level of education and awarness that had previously been missing, exemplified in numerous songs, such as “Something’s Wrong” off 2014’s Cult (“Who do you think you are? / And how’d you ever get this way / Putting lust above humanity and calling it okay.”) or “Walk It Off” off 2019’s Interrobang, a direct statement on toxic masculinity (“Shake it off and shut your mouth / Suck it up, make father proud / Go walk it off, go walk it off / We are as we are taught.”)
Lead singer Anthony Raneri even goes so far as to address this shift in lyricism in a 2016 interview on “Going Off Track”:
“There were a lot of people saying, “A lot of your early lyrics were sort of misogynist and sort of violent and not super positive,” and I owned it…I was like, “You know, you’re right.”
I was twenty-two and I was a different person and luckily I’m not that person anymore. And I can’t take back any of that stuff and I don’t regret it. It was how I felt at the time. I don’t regret saying any of it. If it means anything, then I recognize it.
He continues by saying:
We’re a bunch of straight, white guys. It’s not our place to speak for anybody else. But what we do try to do, we try to take women on tour as much as we can and give them a platform for them to say what needs to be said…We don’t feel like it’s our place to do the talking. But I think the best we can do is give people whose place it is a platform to do it.
It’s substantial shift and shows a tremendous amount of self-awareness and desire for growth. It’s looking to artists like Bayside that affirms my belief that we can’t always hold people to who they used to be, lest we rob one another of the opportunity to grow, change, and learn.