While Bayside’s catalog has been the model for freakish consistency, The Walking Wounded is definitely a diamond in a field of gems. Not only is it the agreed-upon fan-favorite album, it also tops Raneri’s personal list.
“It’s still my favorite Bayside record,” he admits. “It’s still the record I put on and think, ‘Man, how the fuck did I think of that?’ There are songs where I wish I could think like that now. At the time, that was the most experimental we ever felt, but now, that’s our ‘old sound.’ Usually, bands get experimental as they move forward. They make two punk records but then discover Pet Sounds. We kinda did that, but our ‘experimental’ record became our sound.”
Loaded with catchy sing-alongs about love, death, religion and scene politics, The Walking Wounded is a deceptively complex punk record that had a lot of eyes affixed to it for a truly terrible reason: On October 31, 2005, as Bayside was in the midst of a tour supporting that year’s self-titled release, the band got into a terrible van accident that resulted in the death of their drummer, John “Beatz” Holohan. It was a devastating event not just for the band and those tied to them, but for the scene as a whole.
“There were a lot of tears in the office that day—it was a really solemn environment,” recalls Aubrey Welbers, who worked in promotions at Victory Records from 2005 to 2007. “Anthony and Jack carried on for the rest of the tour acoustic. I don’t even know how they were able to do that. Everyone at Victory had so much respect for the band.
“I remember when we first received the master for The Walking Wounded, in late 2006—it was like Christmas that day,” she continues. “We were all waiting for it and we were all really excited for it. I remember listening to it on repeat at my desk for weeks. I was so in love with it.”
“As The Walking Wounded was coming out, the office was like, ‘This one needs to be a win. We need to win one for this team,’” remembers Monika Ebly, former Victory Records licensing manager and later, Bayside’s day-to-day manager. “I was really going to focus my energies on this one, because it felt earned and deserved by the band.”
While The Walking Wounded was not released until February 2007, its title and concept were accidentally created that fateful October evening.
“It was Nick’s idea,” Raneri says. “The night of our accident, getting put into ambulances and stuff, [paramedics] had referred to a couple of us as ‘the walking wounded’—the people who needed attention but weren’t on stretchers. It’s a literal reference to the situation, but to him, and the way he pitched it to us, was the survivor idea, that we were still here, we still had our heart, and we still had our strength.”
That feeling of resilience, of the will to keep fighting no matter what might befall you, resonates throughout every part of The Walking Wounded, starting with its iconic cover art. Pictured is a white flag adorned with Bayside’s logo—a drawing of a bird taken from a Japanese book—that has yellowed and tattered over time. While some associate white flags with surrender, Raneri sees it differently: “It’s a reference to soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima—raising the colors in ruins.”
The album art’s original concept was even more vibrant, explains Jason “DoubleJ” Link, who served as Victory Records’ art director from 2002 to 2013, and still designs many of the band’s albums, T-shirts and tour materials.
“One idea I really wanted to do was a renaissance painting of this warrior with arrows stuck in his back,” Link says. “Unfortunately, we had a budget of maybe $500, which is normal for an indie label. We had to scale back the idea. The bird itself is pretty iconic, so how cool would it be to put the bird on the cover, but with a little more meaning? Enter the flag. The tattered flag is meant to indicate ‘We’ve gone through some shit. Even though our flag’s torn to shreds, we’re not gonna stop.’ That was their attitude at the time.”