A group of young, slightly geeky, self-hating emo kids from Long Island, Bayside pours its little hearts out on its debut record, Sirens and Condolences (Victory), turning high-school prom tragedies into magnificent rock songs. These kids worship at the altar of exalted emo-punk forefathers Jawbreaker, whose frontman, Blake Schwarzenbach, sang frank, almost embarrassing lyrics about depression, cigarettes, cute punk girls, and bad parties. (He continues to do so with Jets to Brazil.) Fittingly, one of Bayside's first appearances was on the Jawbreaker tribute album Bad Scene, Everybody's Fault.
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On Sirens and Condolences, Bayside borrows Schwarzenbach's muted bar chords, punchy choruses, despairing subject matter, and out-of-control angst, crafting songs that move the listener in a ticklish, goosebumpy manner. "Poison in My Veins," one of many songs about getting dumped, adds the band's lovely harmonies to the Jawbreaker formula, along with a cathartic guitar solo, knockout hooks, a very pleasurable bridge, and no shortage of emotion. Some of the lyrics -- "Take this razor/Sign your name across my wrist/So everyone will know you left me," or maybe "Spend my days looking back/And I wonder if you're looking up/From underneath someone who is able to be everything I'm not" -- definitely fall in the wimpo, crybaby, oh-so-precious, I'm-a-dork-who's-way-too-into-Morrissey category. Still, the stirring music manages to make these sentiments seem less lame. This mix of adolescent self-loathing and upbeat, spirited punk rock is the recipe for most of Bayside's songs, and overall it clicks.