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Intersection of Life and Faith

A Sunny Trip through California 37

  • Ed Cardinal Contributing Writer
  • 2012 26 Apr
A Sunny Trip through <i>California 37</i>

Artist: Train

Title: California 37

Label: Columbia Records

Train's quirky chartbuster "Hey, Soul Sister" might have been instantly appealing and then ultimately annoying, but the rock band seems to be managing its successes quite well—from winning Grammy Awards to having one of the most downloaded songs in history. On this sixth studio album in fourteen years, the trio led by singer Pat Monahan stays mindful of a certain Mr. Mister name-dropping ukulele anthem that won more fans and kept things rolling, but there are also sure signs of other strong creative directions.

Beginner "This'll Be My Year" is a salad bar of nostalgia, a rapid fire lyrical trip down pop culture, political, and personal memory lanes from 1985 to 2012 with a smashing chorus that leans on a fun reference to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"—perfect ingredients for a summertime hit.

First single "Drive By," the especially humorous "50 Ways to Say Goodbye," and The Police-meets-Maroon 5 "Mermaid" were all written with the Norwegian production team Espionage that helped pen "Hey, Soul Sister." Packed with everything from thumping Spanish reggae rhythms and mariachi horns to island themes and silly Johnny Depp references, each one carries an overtly catchy hook that really cuts loose and makes a radio programmer's work easy.

For all that playfulness, Train never forgets how to tug at the heart and soul. Afterlife-themed "You Can Finally Meet My Mom" is more in keeping with the style of earlier hit "Drops of Jupiter," and although it mentions everyone from Chris Farley to Justin Beiber and is spiritually hazy, it's still sweet and has something deep to say.

"Sing Together" approaches the same topic of eternity, breaking out the ukulele for good measure, and also on the softer side, "Feels Good at First" addresses the complexities of love in a simple acoustic song that would make Paul Simon proud.

Among the surprises, a duet with Ashley Monroe from Pistol Annies on "Bruises" suggests Train could go country in a Sugarland sort of way if it wanted; the song's melodic conversation suggests we admit to one another our failures as well as our successes: these bruises make for better conversation.

That's true, but it doesn't play so well on California 37's misplaced, hip-hop informed title track when Monahan uses an inappropriate term out of nowhere to refer to his ex-wife. It's a quick dark blip on an otherwise all-around sunny and recommendable record.

*This Article First Published 4/26/2012