Steel Train
Steel Train


4.0
excellent

Review

by J. Ponton EMERITUS
June 28th, 2010 | 159 replies | 14,569 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Steel Train expand their pop-rock and have some fun with it

Sure, Steel Train may have wowed a few listeners once their sophomore Trampolines hit the shelves three years ago, but it largely fell under the radar. The band’s indie-folk rock that comprised the whole of their debut full-length, 2005’s Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun, was largely flattened out and placed down as a foundation for a pop-rock aesthetic that proved to be much stronger than your everyday Lifehouse imposter. The album invoked a sense of Arcade Fire grandeur, minus the melodrama – or any of that indie credibility, for that matter – with equal parts Santana and contained a collection of hooks that didn’t capitalize on the routine radio cuts and those big-shot choruses. Suffice it to say, Trampolines was a fresh take on pop-rock that surprisingly failed to allow Steel Train to have a large impact on the mainstream that many thought they deserved to make.

This year’s self-titled is out to change that. Steel Train have traveled further down the road that they detoured onto three years ago and have made the album that reflects the high ambitions of the band: this is bombastic material and is just brimming with potential. Right out of the gate, the band hits you with the strongest cut of their career. “Bullet” is a summer anthem of daunting proportions: honey-sweet oh, oh, ohs dance around Jack Antonoff and companion voices, bassist Evan Winnicker and guitarist Daniel Silbert, proclaiming a sunny tale of running away for a better life, all pre-loaded with the band’s strongest chorus hook yet: “Run, run, run from the Devil in disguise / Like a bullet, a bullet, a bullet into the night”. Unfortunately, the album isn’t quite able to match the ambitions of the opener, though; however, that doesn’t mean that Steal Train don’t attempt to do so.

Second cut “Turnpike Ghost” details the new fun. of 2010, so to speak, happy gang vocals ascenting with melodies while unconventional instruments and arrangements tinker with the usual pop-rock layouts. Steel Train have a knack of genuinely surprising you on this album. What might appear to be the start of the band’s movement to the more conventional takes at songwriting - say the sleepy-eyed balladry start to third cut “You and I Undercover” or the routine acoustic sentiments in “Bloody Lips” near the album’s end, as examples - only acts as a precursor to the band’s antics and fun, but more importantly, unexpected switches in direction for their pop-rock songs. For this reason, much of Steel Train’s self-titled is unpredictable while still seemingly able to hold onto a verse-chorus format. This gives the band’s brand of pop-rock a longer shelf-life, which is needed given their often direct, upfront approach, hitting you with their strengths all at once.

Like fun.’s Aim and Ignite before it, Steel Train’s self-titled is a very happy and soaring-to-momentous-heights album, quickly contrasting some of the darker lyrical touches of the 9-11 reference-filled Trampolines. Even when Antonoff pleads for listeners that are leaving home on “You and I Undercover” to “cut the cords to those you know will love you back,” he comes off with an air of confidence and hope, looking at the positives of the situation and moving on from there. The band’s orchestration of acoustic and lightly distorted guitars, strings, bells, and even a glockenspiel is the perfect backing for this, and as such, the mood Steel Train go for on this album is generally reached when sought after. A few cuts near the end of the album do betray the band’s initial ambitions and fall short of the superb first half, however, but on average the band is very consistent and does a great job of making their pop-rock fun to listen to, sing to, and play on repeat. This is the sound of a band reaching for new heights, and they will seemingly only go upwards from here.



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user ratings (53)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Ponton
Emeritus
June 28th 2010



5775 Comments


stream


http://www.myspace.com/steeltrain

Digging: Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds

killrobotmusic
June 28th 2010



670 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Nice, I still think I am going to review this but I am happy to see these guys get the credit they deserve on here. One of my local favorites (as they are from Hoboken, NJ).

robin
Emeritus
June 28th 2010



4221 Comments


typical response of 'great stuff (not heard album)'

Romulus
June 28th 2010



8373 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I took a peek at the stream and Bullet sounded awesome despite not really being my style, so I might give the rest of this a shot. Great review as usual.

Steoandnoodles
June 28th 2010



2832 Comments


Yeah, I liked it too.
Now, I only ever heard of Steel Train after the announcement of fun. back in 2006(?) but yeah, quite pleased with this.

It's a solid pop-rock record with many highlight tracks and certainly powerfull choruses with a brilliant vocalist.

Makes me wonder if Jack will do any singing on the next fun. record.

CelestialDust
June 28th 2010



3155 Comments


yes bullet is good and fun. is a fitting comparison to what i'm hearing

EVedder27
June 28th 2010



6088 Comments


Looks like something I may get at some point. Pos.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2010



20818 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I thought about reviewing this & probably would have if I knew that it was going to go in an even more pop-rock direction. Great review Jared... This is on my list.

Ponton
Emeritus
June 28th 2010



5775 Comments


Thanks Davey. I'm pretty sure you would enjoy this album, and even though as a whole the songs' are catchier than Trampoline imo, it's stronger musically too. The band does a great job of implementing their instruments and playing around with their song structures, when they could have easily caused a disaster with what they do.

It's not for everyone, though, as it's very sugary in spots.

tflynn17
June 29th 2010



34 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

So glad to see this get a proper review! Nice job.

Dunno about this sentence though, I had a difficult time getting through it:

Steel Train have a knack of genuinely surprising you on this album: what might appear to be the start of the band’s movement to the more conventional takes at songwriting, say the sleepy-eyed balladry start to third cut “You and I Undercover” or the routine acoustic sentiments in “Bloody Lips” near the album’s end, as examples, only acts as a precursor to the band’s antics and fun, but more importantly, unexpected switches in direction for their pop-rock songs.



Ponton
Emeritus
June 29th 2010



5775 Comments


It is a bit clustered, and while still grammatically correct, I'll go and make it easier to read. Thanks!

killrobotmusic
June 29th 2010



670 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I think Jack has transferred a lot of fun.'s quirkiness over to this album (especially regarding auxiliary instrumentation), but the arrangements still have the rock flair that made Trampoline a lot of fun. It's a nice change from their early stuff because that was very slow moving in comparison.

BigTuna
July 8th 2010



5151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This good.

Digging: EMA - The Future's Void

ihopeuchoke
July 11th 2010



667 Comments


If I didn't care for their first two albums, but loved fun., would I love this?

BigTuna
July 13th 2010



5151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's not really anything like their first two.

Donkey
July 20th 2010



152 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Getting into this for sure!

Knott-
Emeritus
July 20th 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album of the year so far i reckon. was gonna review this, but, HI JARED. YOU'RE ALWAYS A STEP AHEAD. about 3 weeks, here, actually, but still.

Steoandnoodles
July 24th 2010



2832 Comments


Almost agree with you if it weren't for Sam Amidon- i See The Sign and The Tallest Man On Earth- The Wild Hunt. ;)

Sorry mr. Knott-

Knott-
Emeritus
July 28th 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

more people need to hear this it's SO GOOD

BigTuna
July 28th 2010



5151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

whoa! Glad you like this Adam.



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