Review Summary: ‘California 37’ can be quite enjoyable, but if you were an original Train fan you’d have to forget everything you once thought Train were
Although Train has managed to garner radio rotations for singles off every album over the years, most people only remember them for their first major single ‘Drops of Jupiter’. That was until 2009 when, as if by accident they struck a hit with the catchy ‘Hey, Soul Sister’. This track brought Train rushing back into mainstream yet distanced themselves from their earlier work. After three years riding high on a very successful record that was ‘Save Me, San Francisco’ Train are now back paying more homage to their favourite part of the world with ‘California 37’.
If its success Train wants, then success is almost surely what they’ll get with the catchy pocketful of sunshine that is ‘California 37’. Front man Pat Monahan believes Train are revitalised as a band and this is evident to a degree. Train do seem to be having a lot of fun with this album by writing catchy jingles, but it simply doesn’t feel like the old Train. There are no tracks on here that closely resemble rockier numbers like ‘Calling All Angels’, ‘Ordinary’ or even ‘Parachute’. Perhaps Train needed to continue their new found pop edge to give the people what they want and to change things up in order not to fade completely out of existence. After all how many more albums could they produce like their early work before being labelled stagnant or repetitive? Everything found on this album is catchy, chock full of pop culture references and is rather pleasant to listen to. I’m not trying to say this is a great record, but I’ve definitely heard worse.
When first hearing ‘California 37’ nothing describes it better than Trains own words “I don’t recognize anything that I see”. The album kicks off with the track ‘This’ll Be My Year’ that begins slowly and builds up to an arena sized chorus. Pat Monahan takes the listener on a trip through the ages with pop culture references dropping left right and centre. This upbeat infectious catchiness continues on into the first single off the album ‘Drive By’. Yet again Train have opted for a pounding dance-like drum beat accompanied by a ukulele to grab you by a hook. Handclapping and piano strokes are quickly introduced to add more sugar to this song in order for it to function like a ‘Hey, Soul Sister 2.0’. From here the album continues to roll and bypasses the albums first acoustic driven song ‘Feels Good At First’ and an oddly attempted country track ‘Bruises’. By the time ’50 Ways To Say Goodbye’ and ‘You Can Finally Meet Me My Mom’ roll around, you know what to expect but they are definitely still a high point.
’50 Ways To Say Goodbye’ begins with festive acoustic guitar paired trumpets, giving you the impression Train are suddenly lost in Mexico. The quirky lyrics in this track revolve around not being able to tell the truth when someone breaks up with you, preferring to tell them that your now-ex died; “She went down in airplane, fried getting sun-tanned, fell in a cement mixer full of quicksand. Help me, help me; I’m no good at goodbyes! She met a shark on the water, fell and no one caught her, I returned everything I ever bought her. Help me, help me; I’m all out of lies and ways to say you died!” The next notable track ‘You Can Finally Meet My Mom’ is much slower than anything seen thus far and packs quite a punch. It’s a sincere attempt in making light of death and features many lyrical references to people that have passed away. Nothing more can really be said past this point in the album because it’s all recycled from the albums first half, with the exception being the closing track ‘When The Fog Rolls In’; a moving piano driven song hushed by Pats emotional croons.
In the end it feels like the energy drink high Train has been on throughout ‘California 37’ will eventually c
ome to an end. If it doesn’t and they continue down this path driven by pop rock, I hope it’s because they’re having fun with music again and not because it’s going to bring in more dollar bills. ‘California 37’ can be quite enjoyable, but if you were an original Train fan you’d have to forget everything you once thought Train were.