new album released Oct 27th
Save Me San Francisco
from the album - Save Me San Francisco
YouTube - Train - Save Me, San Francisco (New Song) 2009
Train was inescapable during the turn of the 21st century, when songs like "Calling All Angels" and "Drops of Jupiter" made the San Francisco residents some of America's most popular balladeers. Although formed during the glory days of post-grunge, the group found more success in the pop/rock world, where Train straddled the line between adult contemporary and family-friendly alternative rock. The hits eventually dried up after 2003, but Train continued releasing material throughout the rest of the decade, with singer Patrick Monahan pursuing a solo career at the same time.
Following the dissolution of his Led Zeppelin cover band, Monahan left his hometown of Erie, PA, in late 1993. He resettled in California and crossed paths with Rob Hotchkiss, the former frontman of a Los Angeles group named the Apostles. The two formed their own duo and began playing local coffeehouse gigs, eventually expanding the group to a trio with the addition of former Apostles guitarist Jim Stafford. Bassist Charlie Colin and drummer Scott Underwood also climbed aboard, thus solidifying Train's lineup in 1994.
Over the course of several years, Train developed a sizable audience in the San Francisco area. The band also toured the country, opening shows for the likes of Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows while drumming up enough money to record an album. Although few labels showed interest at first, Train eventually attracted the interest of Columbia Records, who signed the band to one of its smaller labels — Aware Records — and issued the self-financed debut record Train in 1998. "Meet Virginia" became a Top 40 hit one year later, but the band truly hit its stride in 2001, when Drops of Jupiter rose to multi-platinum status on the back of its titular single. The song remained in the Top 40 for nearly 40 weeks and helped the accompanying album sell more than three million copies.
My Private Nation followed in 2003 and went platinum, largely due to the successful single "Calling All Angels." Although the album didn't yield any additional Top 40 hits, three of its songs fared well on the adult contemporary charts, a sign that Train had traded its alternative rock roots for an older fanbase. For Me, It's You followed in 2006, but album sales proved to be the lowest of Train's career. Accordingly, Monahan briefly turned his focus inward, releasing a solo album in 2007 and briefly touring behind it. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, though, and Train issued its fifth album, Save Me, San Francisco, in 2009.
San Francisco's Train hit the charts with a bang early in the 21st century with hits like "Calling All Angels" and "Drops of Jupiter." They began as a band that courted an alternative audience and quickly traded it — without changing their sound much — for a more adult fanbase with mixed results and have been struggling ever since with what it is they want to be as a band. Save Me, San Francisco took four years to make — remember there was Monahan's solo album in the interim — and involved a slew of musicians (because only Monahan, guitarist Jimmy Stafford, and drummer Scott Underwood remain from the original group), four studios in the United States and England, songwriting collaborators, and even a handful of producers, though Martin Terefe gets the final credit. Admittedly, this makes Save Me, San Francisco seem like it's a mess before the first song even gets played. The truth is, however, it's a very focused record, centering around the theme of a wandering young rocker who falls in love and wants to settle down. The title track opens the set and it's a cracker, with an acoustic guitar playing a variation on the I-IV-V progression, the snare kicks in, and Monahan sings in his best confessional style, all the while echoing prime Bob Seger. A piano and the electric guitars finally come in on the backing "whooo-hooo-hooo" chorus, it' a near-perfect radio-friendly rock anthem. "Hey Soul Sister" is a love song in the best Train tradition, even if it does namecheck the band Mr. Mister and use a Madonna metaphor in the lyrics (and credits her while doing so). Acoustic guitars, kick drums, tom-toms, mandolins, and a B-3 underscore Monahan's emotive lyrics. "I Got You" is the strangest track here. It samples the Doobie Brothers' "Black Water" as an intro, and then uses the chorus of the song as part of its faux-shuffle against a reggae backbeat, which has a great bridge, and namechecks Sonny & Cher in its tight chorus. It's a high gloss, big-production pop number that sounds like the late '70s, and rightfully gives Patrick Simmons a co-writing credit. There are a couple of Monahan's signature ballads on the set, as well, such as the conflict-laden "This Aint Goodbye," with strings in the arrangement and a promise of unrelenting commitment despite this; "Words," with its undying profession of standing in the eye of the storm to protect his beloved. "Brick by Brick" is another hooky anthem, with swelling choruses, a lyric that promises the moon and tries really hard to deliver it, and a 4/4 processional that underscores all of Train's power ballads. "Breakfast in Bed" is a seductive attempt at neo-soul, and with its programmed loop, keyboards, and subdued vocals, it basically works. The album reaches its conclusion in "Marry Me," that Monahan sings like it's a prayer, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the sound of a flute, and muted percussion. Ultimately, Save Me, San Francisco is a love song to the band's hometown; but more than this, it feels as if everything is on the line for Train on this album; and all the time and struggle they put into making it is on display. Their loyal fanbase will no doubt celebrate it to be sure; but more than this Save Me, San Francisco sounds like the band is reaching farther than ever before, and swinging for the pop fences. Time will tell whether or not they are successful.
1 Save Me, San Francisco Hollander, Katz, Monahan 04:09
2 Hey, Soul Sister Björklund, Lind, Monahan 03:36
3 I Got You Griffin, Monahan, Simmons 03:47
4 Parachute Monahan, Wattenberg 03:30
5 This Ain't Goodbye Monahan, Tedder 04:23
6 If It's Love Monahan, Wattenberg 03:59
7 You Already Know Monahan, Stafford, Underwood ... 04:42
8 Words Becker, Maldonado, Monahan 03:29
9 Brick by Brick Björklund, Lind, Monahan 03:39
10 Breakfast in Bed Monahan, Underwood 04:54
11 Marry Me Hollander, Katz, Monahan 03:25