Review Summary: Wonderful Beef is firmly entrenched in the genre tag it proudly wears on its sleeve, which benefits the band in some ways while hurting the end product decidedly more.
Ska has always been hit or miss for me, but much more of a miss as of late than when I was a bit younger. The bands that resonated with me were the ones that I grew up with, and it seems that the only redeeming quality that they possessed were the nostalgia that inevitably bound me to them. There was just something about that pop-punk energy and devil-may-care attitude towards being "cool" that drew me in as a younger listener. Pain embody this feeling to the nines on Wonderful Beef
both lyrically and instrumentally. The formula that 90's ska/pop-punk used as a template for over ten years is here in spades, complete with self-deprecating lyrics and ample horn sections. Pain has plenty of shout-along choruses, audible bass sections, and yet still enough crunch in the guitars to place them in upper echelon of the genre; names such as Five Iron Frenzy and Less Than Jake certainly come to mind on some of the more memorable tracks.
is firmly entrenched in the genre tag it proudly wears on its sleeve, which benefits the band in some ways while hurting the end product decidedly more. The album itself just suffers from a lack of songs that highlight Pain's best qualities, which are quite honestly the more upbeat and catchy numbers. "Antidote" capitalizes on an absolutely dance-able bass lines, with a slew of horns propelling the memorable chorus. There are a few more examples of solid songwriting sprinkled throughout the album, with "Suckerpunch" boasting a much stronger guitar presence than most of the other songs. It's when Pain decides to explore with additional instruments that some of the songs suffer from cheesiness. The surprising polka flair of "Umbrella" matches a plodding pace with a horn section that sounds much
stronger when the pop-punk elements are there to prop the songs up. The acoustic stylings of "The Story of the 7 Inch Cowboy" would be more interesting if it weren't for the comedic vocal approach taken by singer Dan Lord. The real issue with the release, however, is the fact that Pain can't decide whether they want to be taken seriously or if they are just having fun with their listeners. "The Bottlerocket War" is a great song in its own right, but seems a little too politically-charged when "In A Band" exists on the same release.
Ultimately this is a great listen for a fan of the genre, providing plenty of great vocal hooks and that quintessential 90's ska flavor that you can't get from new releases. For listeners that may be ambivalent towards the genre, it is a mixed bag in terms of success. It's certainly a fun and energetic listen when Pain is pumping out the more upbeat tracks, but the flaws are apparent when the band slows things down and attempts to deviate from the formula established early on. As it stands, this is a criminally overlooked band that contributed some very well-constructed releases to the ska/pop-punk movement.