Album Review: California 37

After the success of their comeback album “Save Me, San Francisco” [1], Train decided to stay close to California and released another album with a similar focus on the wine-growing areas outside of San Francisco. This album was not quite as successful as their previous one, but it still had some big singles, even if those singles were more focused on the Adult Top 40 and Adult Contemporary markets. In many ways, this album marks an elaboration of and a continuation of the previous one. It explores love and family, the bruises one has from past relationships that have gone wrong, and the desire for a new beginning and a fresh start. These are common longings, and well expressed. Now for a track-by-track review:

This’ll Be My Year: The driving spoken-word song that begins this album closely resembles Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” only with a more guitar rock approach, one that blends the spoken word interests of Pat Monahan as songwriter with gentle hooks, and a love of pop culture references. This is a song that was waiting to happen, commenting on the fact that what the narrator really wanted was to find love and a sense of home. Maybe this’ll be my year.

Drive By: A song about a one-night stand that is not what it appears, this is about being overwhelmed when one finds love and intimacy as a fairly shy and timid love. Surely, at least some people are like this, right? It was a well-deserved hit with its theme of romantic devotion and mid-tempo driving guitar part.

Feels Good At First: This song slows down the mood in a country mood, reflecting on the fact that love feels good at first, but doesn’t always feel good. It is a soft and touching ballad with woodwinds that add to the pensive and reflective mood of the song, a suitable album track that reflects a mature experience of love, with all of its ups and downs.

Bruises (featuring Ashley Monroe): This song continues the country vibe, with country singer Ashley Monroe, of the last song. The song talks about running into someone one knew in the past to reflect upon the bruises and wounds and losses that one gains over time as a romantic person in a cruel world that does not reward our faith in love or in the wisdom of our own hearts. This song was a mild hit on Adult Top 40 and Adult contemporary radio, and could have been a country hit as well, with its acoustic vibe.

50 Ways To Say Goodbye: One almost feels guilty for liking this song. It features ludicrous ways for a partner to die as a way of lying about the fact that she left and wants nothing more to do with the narrator, a person who really doesn’t know how to say goodbye well (we all know people like that, I suppose), mariachi instrumentation, and references to Yom Kippur. It was also a hit single among those who didn’t entirely realize how sad this song is despite its fast tempo, or were laughing at the narrator. Some us feel too guilty to laugh, I suppose.

You Can Finally Meet My Mom: This is a song about putting away the clutter that we often use to fill our lives and making time in our lives for those who mean the most to us. With pop culture references aplenty, a common Train phenomenon, a gospel choir singing the title over and over again, this is a song about the importance of finding love and settling down, with a wistful whistling to go along with the general mood of the song.

Sing Together: Another song about marriage, this ukelele-based song (much like “Hey Soul Sister”) compares a loving life in marriage to singing together in a beautiful duet. It is a fitting metaphor for a song that appears like it was made to be sung at wedding receptions for people with similar romantic inclinations to the band. The close of this song is very sweet and lovely as well.

Mermaid: The fourth of the songs on this album to become a radio hit, this song is funny and full of humorous inside jokes about treasure maps and pirates and, well, mermaids. It’s not surprising that this hook-filled power pop number became a hit, but it is a bit surprising that it was buried so deep in album, just to give a reference to Alcatraz and to serve as the inspiration for among the funniest tour titles ever: “Mermaids of Alcatraz.”

California 37: This song is pretty fierce and serves as the true state of Pat Monahan reflecting on the hard work that it took for Train to become a relevant rock & roll act, showing a literal and metaphorical road, reflecting on an ex-wife and a lot of nasty critics, all with subtly distorted lyrics that befit a song about defying one’s haters and doing what one loves and finding success, and giving credit to those who stood by them when times were difficult.

We Were Made For This: An abrupt shift of mood, this song with its sweet and repetitive instrumental part and lyrics soaked in love and devotion to one’s partner, this is a song for a lazy morning of cuddling in bed with a loved one while one’s kids are playing, for those lucky enough to enjoy that sort of thing.

When The Fog Rolls In: The closing song of this album is a reflective piano ballad about the relationship between friends and lovers, and the fact that love doesn’t always seem to work out and when one’s path doesn’t always look clear, like a road when one is socked in by the fog. This song may be compared to “The Finish Line” and a sequel to “Half Moon Bay” from the previous album. It is a moody song, but a lovely one, perfect for those melancholy days when one is having to say goodbye to a past relationship.

Overall, this album features nice elaborations and touches on what one gets used to hearing from a Train album. There is a mix of genres, including some country elements, there are excellent flourishes and instrumentation, a drastic shift in mood from devotion to melancholy to (surprisingly) anger, along with heartfelt lyrics. Four songs off of this album were worthy hits, and several more are likely to be wedding staples for a while to come. If you are a fan of Train’s music, this is a worthy album as part of their organic development from the start, even if it does throw a few curveballs to show surprise and growth.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/album-review-save-me-san-francisco/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Love & Marriage, Music History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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