Review Summary: The devil in denim.
It’s hard to believe that when Train started out, they actually weren’t all that bad. Sure, they may have been a little rough around the edges, but songs like “Ordinary” and “Whipping Boy” actually had some pretty nice riffs; even the schmaltzy, sappy “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” wasn’t all that bad (although some of those lyrics about deep-fried chicken and soy lattes were pretty cringeworthy), nor was the theme for a lullaby that was “Calling All Angels”. Yet Train spent nearly half a decade in irrelevancy, not making any impact post-“Drops of Jupiter” until 2008, when they released what will go down as the band’s defining song, “Hey, Soul Sister”. Coming out of nowhere, the lead single off of Save Me, San Francisco
unexpectedly took the world by storm, completely changing the trajectory of their career overnight. Ever since then, Train have just been devoid of any goodness, a black hole sucking out any quality they once had while attempting to rehash that song that made them relevant again.
That’s where we are now; in 2014, with Train releasing an album that manages to one-up its predecessors in terms of how incredibly horrific it is. After the train-wreck (ha!) that was California 37
, it was thought that they could not got any worse than the complete disaster that was their sixth record. Well, folks, the moral of the story here is never to doubt how bad Train can be, especially when they’re not even trying anymore. Even if California 37
was a musical ***stain in every sense of the word, Bulletproof Picasso
manages to take of the aforementioned album’s weaknesses and increase them tenfold. The result is Train’s most poppiest record yet, and I don’t care how polished “Drive By” or “Bruises” were, this takes things to a whole other level. At their core, they always had a slight rock influence, even if it had been steadily decreasing ever since “Hey, Soul Sister”. Nevertheless, we’ve reached a point where that ‘rock’ influence is approaching zero. The guitars quietly play out into the background instead of carving out a melody, while the drums sound more computer-generated at some points. Is this the final step in turning Train into a pop band" Not quite, although it’s hard to see if they could possibly get any worse.
From the get-go, Bulletproof Picasso
establishes itself as an album made by a band that is clearly past their prime, making middle-aged records in an attempt to fight a battle against relevancy. Every song just reeks of laziness and unoriginality; Train have made songs like these before, and they’ve done them better. The first track, “Cadillac, Cadillac”, incorporates reggae elements (probably because they saw the popularity of MAGIC!’s “Rude” and wished to recreate its success), yet the Police-esque song ends up as a mess that tries to be something that it really is not. Elsewhere, lead single “Angel in Blue Jeans” takes Monahan’s knack for overly evocative lyrical imagery about silver rivers and denim-clad cherubs, an incredibly poppy drumbeat and twangy instrumentation to create an absolute borefest that does nothing but remind us how far from grace Train have fallen (not to mention that the “oh oh oh”s are ripped exactly from Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”). The choruses on the slow-tempo title track and “I Will Remember” try to sound anthemic and arena-ready, yet they end up falling flat on their faces. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore; clearly, no effort was put into these songs, or else they would have come up with something at least half decent..
I do have to commend Train for at least trying something slightly different, like the aforementioned reggae beat on “Cadillac, Cadillac” or the neo-soul influenced “The Bridge”; however, these moments are few and far between, and when they do happen it’s not like Pat Monahan magically managed to write something interesting down for once. Half of the time they just rip off themselves – I mean, are there any differences between “Give It All” (which sadly, is not a Rise Against cover) and “Baby, Happy Birthday”" There’s just nothing left in Train anymore, and honestly, that isn’t all that shocking. Pat Monahan is pushing 45, and for a man who never really had much to say, resorting to cheesy pick-up lines and overly descriptive phrasings is just natural.
manages to take all of Train’s worst characteristics and make them the focal point of the album, and the result is what manages to be another nail in an already dented coffin. Take their unoriginality, their awful frontman, their cringeworthy lyrics and their blandness, mix them together in a blender, triple it, and we have our final result, an overpolished, overdone, inane, boring album that just continues to document the downward spiral of Train, a band that actually wasn’t all that bad when they first started out. Yet it’s been nearly 20 years since then, and all that’s happened is an increase in annoyance and a decrease in tolerability. It’s already been established that there’s no way they’re going back to their previous levels of decency. So why even bother"