Train: Save Me San Francisco

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Posted September 13, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

train00Train’s latest work of pop/rock fusion is reexamined, almost a year since its release, due to the success of chart-topping single

Sometimes groups have to take a hiatus to find their magic again. Train, the San Francisco rock/pop band with the taste buds for the best of crossover rock, knows too well about that. With three albums already behind them and several Top 20 hits (“Meet Virginia,” “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” “Calling All Angels”) in their arsenal, Train – even with critical praise – ran across a bump in the road with their fourth release For Me, It’s You. The slump gave them enough courage to take a necessary three-year break from it all – touring, recording and any promotional work. Save Me San Francisco finds the regrouped team players of lead vocalist Patrick Monahan, guitarist Jimmy Stafford and drummer Scott Underwood back in the driver’s seat and steering the group towards sunnier West Coast pop vibes rather than their alternative rock roots. It’s bit of a dangerous ploy for a group with a decade-long career and with an observant following knowing their every move to go for the pop bucks, but it’s not a bad detour for the group since they carefully carve the album into a celebratory gala for their hometown while whipping out a team of producers and extra songwriters to give them the makeover necessary for their type of artistry. Luckily, the end results are in favor for Train as Monahan, with his believably energetic vocals, leads the way. A “come-back-to-me” ballad like “This Ain’t Goodbye,” holding tight to the opening acoustic piano resemblances of the Fray’s breakout hit “You Found Me,” just fits cozily on Monahan’s pipes. And with Monahan’s executions and with a nice set of universal melodies, Train seems to moving in the right direction. The opening “hey-hey” sing-a-long chant, the gospel rhythms and the shuffling of the drum brushes on “Hey, Soul Sister,” all akin to Jason Mraz pop, explains why pop majesty prevails this time around.

On Save Me, Train doesn’t completely abandon their alt-rock foundation. They do rock the guitar riffs and turn up the volume on songs like “Parachute” and “You Already Know” while also getting a little grittier with their pop on “If It’s Love.”

A few careful experiments are embedded in the pack, but none to be afraid of. Train finds their way into Nashville pop territory with the hometown anthem “Save Me, San Francisco” but it isn’t entirely Rascal Flatts. Its upbeat feel-good chorus is the kind of stuff that conjures up memories of positive fun and crossover pop. “I Got You” digs heavily into soul, while also poking fun at Sonny & Cher’s 1969 theme song (“Like Sonny and Cher except I’ll be there for you/I got you”).

Probably the only detour found on the list, “Breakfast in Bed” provides a psychedelic trance into Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” drum patches. It’s not a terrible inclusion but the Beatle-esque tune somehow doesn’t add up with the lineup of accessibly pop-driven and rock-embellished songs.

Save Me is a decent crossover record, if you ever heard one. Troubling days ahead for any devout Train fans. With the chart-topping success of the record right now and the pop magic presented, this certainly leaves Train with a big headache of a decision-maker for their next album. The new route towards more radio-ready material might backfire on them in the near future. For now, Train isn’t worried about all that. They’ve got a good record with a bundle of expected radio singles lined up for release. Certainly they will deal with that big question pertaining their future’s musical direction when they get there.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 17 Oct 2009
  • Label: Columbia
  • Producers: Gregg Wattenberg, S*A*M & Sluggo Espionage
  • Track Favs: Hey, Soul Sister, Save Me, San Francisco, This Ain’t Goodbye, If It’s Love, I Got You

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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