By Nick Erickson, staff writer
There are three categories of people that know of the pop-rock band Train: those who adore the band, those who know “Hey, Soul Sister” and those who hold the band with high disdain. Now with their 10th studio album, “A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat,” the band concentrates on producing cheery music for anyone to enjoy. Yet, the sweetness results in a saturated record with peppy beats and lyricism akin to anything they’ve done with the past nine.
Pulsating synth and a dance-floor beat kick off opener “Drink Up,” which to no surprise is about literally drinking and seizing the moment, draws drinking metaphors from this. Instrumentally, it is reminiscent of “V” era Maroon 5, but is far more forgettable.“Take this moment and put it in a glass; if you want a sip, I’ve got memories on tap,” frontman Patrick Monahan sings in the airy chorus. While Train isn’t a band traditionally noted for their lyricism, this is just a little more outputting than usual.
Though the first release without lead guitarist and founding member Jimmy Stafford, the band still makes adequate use of the instrument. However, like much of pop music, the traditional conveyance of the six-string is often drowned out by overproduction. “Lottery” kicks off with some funky acoustic strums, but it’s not long before a synthesized swell and beat enters and overshadows. On the bright side, the Latin-inspired beat is undeniably catchy.
“Valentine” starts with a bass-octave sung vocal loop that sounds unintentionally humorous, and paves the way for a chorus so sugary it could be used as filler for a Disney Channel soundtrack. While Monahan’s voice soars as he repeats “Baby, you’re my valentine,” the persistent repetition of the beat, vocal loop and simplistic, 50s-esque chord progression, it gets annoying quicker than one would think. “Loverman” features Priscilla Renea blasting listeners with the chorus from the start, leading into a guitar hook and Monahan’s smooth voice. Yet, Renea’s reentrance with the chorus becomes grating quick with its almost nursery-rhyme melody.
The band works wonders when they hone in on their serious side. Closer “You Better Believe,” undoubtedly the standout track on the record, has a sentimental tone to it. The piano-driven ballad garnishes the hints of genuine passion that are scattered around the album and make its message cohesive. “You better believe you’re not alone,” Monahan sings over keyboards and an ensemble of faint strings and acoustic guitar. Eventually climaxing with a simple drumbeat, it effectively ends the record on a surprising highlight. Still, it’s all too familiar.
Train makes extremely catchy music, but one may easily argue that that is their niche, and nothing else. After two decades of minimalistic pop, “A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat” fits in with their discography with nary a note that hasn’t been struck by the group before. Glossy vocals, beats and digital production will help direct the album’s way onto the radio stations, but the dissenting opinion remains: there’s much more substance to be sought after and far more creative artists waiting for their time to shine. Take the drops of Jupiter, and leave room for the next wave of talent.