Review Summary: After a three-year hiatus, Train return to the forefront of pop rock with this solid record.
If you're going to be listening to modern pop or adult contemporary radio today, chances are you're going to hear one of these two songs: "Hey, Soul Sister" or "If It's Love." Both are singles from Train's newest release, "Save Me San Francisco," which has taken Train from pop rock has-been to radio gods.
Despite the fact that the members of Train are easily reeling in dollar after dollar from "Save Me San Francisco," no song on the album matches their 2001 Grammy-winning single "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)," which was a masterpiece in pop rock songwriting. Still, despite entering their forties and having well over a decade of wear on them, Pat Monahan and Co. have picked up an increased ear for catchiness while retaining their ability to write a solid pop rock song. Look no further than the aformentioned first two singles for proof of this. Both are tight, well-crafted radio rock songs. However, you will find some pretty cheesy lyrics in both songs, a flaw that the majority of the album suffers from.
Neither of those lead singles are even close to being the best song on the album, though. Unknown gems like "Parachute," "This Ain't Goodbye," and "Brick By Brick" are some of the best songs Train have written throughout their career. "Parachute" is a basic rock song with a big chorus, much like "If It's Love," but relying more on emotion and power than catchiness and pop hooks. "Brick By Brick" could be thrown into the same category. The two ballads, "This Ain't Goodbye" and the closer "Marry Me" give the album some nice variety, as they sound different than anything Train has ever written. "This Ain't Goodbye" is a powerful, arena anthem that would fit in well with the late 80s power ballads. It's also probably Monahan's best vocal performance on the album. "Marry Me" is less of a power ballad and more of an easygoing soft rock song, but both are plenty enjoyable.
If nothing else, Train have definitely expanded their horizons. "Hey, Soul Sister" is different from their past work, as it is simply a fun, upbeat pop song. "Parachute," "If It's Love," and "Brick By Brick" offer some basic rock music, but each sounds plenty different from the other. "You Already Know" contains a slightly artsy intro before diving into a pretty heavy riff (for Train, that is). The aformentioned ballads are a nice change of pace, as well. The title track is a bluesy, roots rock song that will recall the classic rock feel of The Black Crowes. "I Got You" is probably the weakest track on the album, as it is a failed attempt at funk rock, something Train proves they just can't pull off.
As I said earlier, none of the songs on this album come close to besting Train's 2001 masterpiece "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)." However, as a whole, this may be the best album Train have ever released. It features plenty of variety, excellent studio production, solid performances from each band member (notably Monahan's vocals), and catchy pop hooks. Train hadn't released an album since 2005 before "Save Me San Francisco," but if you're a fan of radio pop rock, it should be well worth the wait. Some time off and a slight change in direction have put Train back at the forefront of modern rock. It seemed as though Train might have faded away, not having had a decent hit since "Calling All Angels" in 2003, but they have definitely redeemed themselves with this album, both commercially and critically.
"Brick By Brick"
"If It's Love"
"This Ain't Goodbye"