The third album of Train , this album marked a change in Train as a band, where there was a distinct shift from a rootsy country-influenced rock sound to a sound much more influenced by adult contemporary elements. The album did not cause any loss of support, as it had three hit singles (the first one being the smash hit “Calling All Angels”) and went to platinum just like Train’s previous two albums, a rare chain of success for a band in the contemporary music scene. The album itself, as might be expected, continues a focus on love and relationships, but also shows some surprisingly large political interests, with a bit of a tougher edge (especially on the album’s title track). All in all, this album was a worthy and successful album where Train’s sound matured but showed some surprising grit as well. What follows is a track by track review.
Calling All Angels – The first single, and big hit, from this album, was a driving and meditative song with a big message. The song, with its desire for optimism and its rumination of the lack of safety all around the world, struck a definite chord with radio audiences, and deservedly so. Perhaps of most interest is the desire of the narrator for help from another place given the inability of human beings to get right.
All American Girl – This song contains Train’s typical pop culture references (“Sexual Healing” again, among many others like Patrick Swayze) and offbeat wordplay, and an upbeat beat and an ironic appreciation of an overly bossy and demanding lover. The song itself was not gallant by any means, but perhaps most people judged it by its perky music and sunny title and did not pay too much attention to its lyrics about an unsatisfactory relationship.
When I Look To The Sky – The album shifts in tone to this elegiac and lovely piano ballad to a departed (perhaps deceased) loved one. This song was the second single from the album, a moderate hit, and my favorite song from the album (so good it appears twice). The song reflects love, longing, and image of lonely sailing. These are not necessarily original concepts, but they are expressed in a beautiful way, showing the persistence of memory despite life’s ups and downs.
Save The Day – This song features more white boy rap from Pat Monahan, with some fuzzy guitars where the narrator seeks to find love with a woman without the desire to save her. It contains suitably nationalistic (and even international) geographical references, and if it is album filler, it is enjoyable and witty album filler, which is not something to complain about when it is done with such panache. Given the fact that the song fits into the general concerns of salvation (of a sort) and a larger world scope, it manages to be both light and insubstantial but also thematically relevant.
My Private Nation – This song is remarkably punchy, with a sense of defiance towards someone (probably a loved one) that contains references to travel (including a private jet and a bus) and reflects the loneliness of someone who feels that life drags them down but lacks the patience to deal with others and their differences. Despite the song’s fierce message, it manages to convey the isolation that comes from being private and lacking genuine relationships with others, which appears to be a consistent theme of this album.
Get To Me – The third single from the album, and a minor hit, this song contains a lot of amusing and sometimes nonsensical appeals for a partner to get to him by any means possible from a camel to the wings of a nightingale to a jet airplane or a limo. It seems that this song is the other side of the tension of the previous song, where a fierce loneliness is countered by a desperate longing for love and intimacy. This whipsawing tension appears consistent throughout Train’s body of work, and accounts for their remarkable ambivalence towards relationships despite their obvious romanticism.
Counting Airplanes – This song (which contains the album’s second reference to shaving legs) is another musing on isolation and the struggle to find intimacy in a world where the narrator’s fame and popularity lead to a lot of insincere flattery and the difficulty in finding real and genuine relationships. The title and general interest of travel of the album relate to the mood of the album and its attitude about universality and travel, making it a notable album track in supporting the larger concept of the album.
Following Rita – This intriguing and moody mid-tempo guitar and piano ballad reflects a persistent, but somewhat ambivalent, attitude towards love and relationships. Despite its repetitive chorus and its mysterious verses, it manages to capture a mood of traveling and loneliness and the desire for love and family and the sadness of leaving loved ones behind, a common concern, it would appear, among rock & roll musicians who are also parents and spouses.
Your Every Color – This midtempo song reflects a love for the changing moods of a lover, reflecting a loyal love (or at least attempting to). Given that the lead singer/songwriter of the band is a person of many moods, it is unsurprising that he would have a strong interest in a moody partner. That said, this is a suitable song in appreciation of staying with someone and appreciating the full range of their personality and moods rather than desiring a monochromatic partner.
Lincoln Avenue – This piano ballad manages to strike a mood that seems like Ben Folds in its reflective mood about relationships and the absence of maturity and features a touching and vulnerable vocal track with a few falsetto parts and a classic rock guitar bridge. This is a song that would have made a touching single, if a somewhat out of left field choice. The choice of title, given the struggle with finding domestic bliss, seems a bit ironic, but it reflects an interest in means of transportation, at least.
I’m About To Come Alive – This song, which inspired the name of the band’s first live album (“Alive At Last”) is a country rock song in the vein of the band’s first albums. It features the understandable appeal for the narrator’s partner not to give up on him. With excellent backup vocals and a message of patience that seems at odds with some of the other songs of this album, it is a fitting closing to an album and an excellent track.
When I Look To The Sky (Radio Edit) – Not very different from the album cut, but with slightly different production, this song is a bonus track that closes the album. Since the song is such an enjoyable one, it’s not a bad thing to hear it twice.
Overall, this album is intensely ambivalent in mood and approach. The song contains songs that are fierce and ungallant towards loved ones, but also full of longing for genuine love and intimacy, a desire to have a rooted and settled place and a wanderlust that includes numerous songs about travel and means of transportation. It is a song that is intensely personal and relational and yet also concerned with wide appeal throughout the United States. It seems as if Train could not determine what they wanted to say, or were unaware that their longings and pulls were so ambivalent. It is perhaps little wonder that this album was the peak of their popular success in their initial period and that personal and professional breakups would follow given the fact that this album appears pulled to the breaking point between a desire to hold on and let go, or even push away.
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