Train loses steam with newest album "California 37"
With summer just around the corner, Train, famous for hits such as “Drops of Jupiter” and “Hey, Soul Sister,” has come out with what looked to be the next light-hearted, feel-good set of jams you can dance to in your dorm room. Unfortunately, Train hits a derailment with their sixth studio album, “California 37.”
Don’t get me wrong, lead singer-songwriter Pat Monahan is very talented in his ability to put together a musical production, but the album is lacking the originality factor that would set it apart from what anyone else is putting out these days. The most original piece in the album is the hipster cover art of the California 37 highway sign.
This album is very Californian. The entire set sounds like the soundtrack to a drive through the Golden State. “Feels Good at First” covers the perfect soulful, acoustic sound made famous in San Francisco — the band’s hometown. “Bruises” adds the perfect twangy country sound essential to driving through the Grapevine and the farm cities. And what’s California without a little mariachi flavor? “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” offers just that, including the brass section.
Lyrics are lacking
So we’ve established that this album has different flavors of California and meets the requirements of a fun summer album. But does it do enough to be considered Train’s landmark album? Unfortunately, no. The musical style and arrangements are enjoyable at times, but the lyrics are quite a different story. This is where Train completely left the tracks. If they’re trying convey a message to the listener, I have no idea what that message is.
“She was caught in a mudslide / eaten by a lion / got run over by a crappy purple Scion,” are lyrics from “50 Ways to Say Goodbye.” What in the world did I just listen to? Later in the album, they tell us that “no Steve Jobs or Ty Cobb, no Al Capone or any other mob … just you / you can finally meet my mom.” It almost sounds like a few of these songs were merely space fillers to fit alongside the album’s better tracks. There is no particular flow throughout the album. The tracks jump around through different musical styles as if the band cannot figure out how they want to sound or who they want to sound like.
Some brighter sides to the album include the opening track, “This’ll Be My Year,” which sounds like a slower spin-off version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Monahan writes about the past, starting with 1985, “Nintendo comes / Live Aid too / ‘Back to the Future’ / where were you,” and highlights various moments throughout history, bringing the listener to 2012, where “I don’t care / because I always know that you’ll be here with me.” The album’s first single, “Drive By,” offers the listener an Enrique Iglesias flavor mixed with Train’s signature upbeat chorus alongside Monahan’s high-range vocal abilities.
Fun but musically elementary
The album did not receive a parental advisory sticker, but this does not mean that the album is completely clean. Although Train is not as blatant or obscene as some popular artists in the music business, some of their lyrics contain questionable material.
“Drive By” is about a boy who sleeps with a girl and then leaves in the morning because he’s worried he likes her too much. Then he asks for a second chance, promising it will be different. This is not exactly the types of morals we as Christians should be striving for, so where does one draw the line when listening to this band? In general, Christians should have discernment even when listening to a group such as Train.
So overall, if you’re looking for a fun ride-with-the-top-down musical journey, this album will be a pleasurable listening experience for you. But as far as musical ability goes, “California 37” receives two out of five stars. The album lacks originality and features lyrics that belong in Weird Al Yankovic’s music. I don’t think we’ve heard the last from this band, and maybe they can tone down the odd lyrics next time.