High expectations and disappointment can be real bitches. Expectations can build up inside you until you explode and disappointment can come in many forms and flavors; a terrible meal, a less than stellar piece of ass and in the case of The Rainman Suite's latest record, Pirate Radio, a really bad album.
I must say that I set myself up for this crushing disappointment. When I saw The Suite play a "mini-Warped Tour" type show in St. Joseph, Missouri on an oppressively hot Midwestern July 2006 afternoon, I convinced myself, despite the delirium, that I was witnessing something very special. The Rainman Suite had managed to take all the finer points of mid to late 1970's New York punk and successfully dip them in sticky molten sugar goodness.
Of all the punk bands, I use that term very loosely, that played that day, The Suite were easily the best, most professional sounding act there. Hell, I even bought their CD. So when I saw a post on the band's MySpace page that a new album was hitting the streets soon I was totally stoked. When I received my advance copy of Pirate Radio I was more than anxious to hear it and get my thoughts on paper.
Within minutes of the album's start, I became something far less than stoked; in fact, the let down made me cringe. All the energy and borderline originality that dripped from the band's previous effort, Losing With Style, was completely M.I.A. from Pirate Radio. Losing With Style had been a good representation of the band's live set; it had catchy hook laden tunes, such as "I Hate Music" and "Heavy Medication." The album was loaded from beginning to end with songs that stuck in your head long after you turn off the record.
The opposite is true of the lukewarm Pirate Radio. The only tunes that stick to your ribs here are "Rock and Roll Doll," "Heavy Medication" (which appeared in better form on Losing With Style) and a passable cover of The Replacements classic, "Bastards of Young."
It isn't the song crafting that bums me out about Pirate Radio, it's the total lack of passion and originality put forth by the band. What illustrates my point the most is their choice of 'Mats cover. "Bastards of Young"?!?. Come on, EVERYBODY covers "Bastards." To me, if you want to appear more punk or at the very least, show that you are actual fans of Westerberg & Company, cover a tune that bands rarely touch; take a shot at "Rattlesnake" or "Takin' A Ride." Don't take the easy road and crank out the tune everybody knows.
Other than the random Cheap Trick-ish power pop goodness with a liberal dash of punk, what we get served on Pirate Radio is the same old cocaine nose vocal delivery and rehashed chords that dominated the mid-nineties wannabe punk rock scene.
The Rainman Suite must decide if they want to be a half-assed, I Don't Give A Fuck Anymore pop punk band with no record deal or the great punk band that I saw laying waste to every band in its wake that day on St. Joe's sunny South Side. I hope and pray that they choose the ladder because I'm afraid if they decide to keep making records like Pirate Radio, I'm going to change the station and so will everyone else.
"Bastards Of The Young"