Drops Of Jupiter

Train

Columbia Records, 2001

http://www.savemesanfrancisco.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/18/2001

The secret of life is finding your best grooves and jumping in and out of them often enough not to get too bored or self-absorbed.

Okay, it's just a theory, but it certainly came to mind when I was setting out to write my first review for "The Daily Vault" in almost a year. It came to mind because I've been out of this groove for awhile, and it feels good to get back in, and because I wasn't about to take the plunge for anything less worthy than Train's just-about-magnificent Drops Of Jupiter.

The first thing the sophomore album from this quintet had to do was conquer one my pet peeves -- the way radio takes a "hot" single and flogs the carcass so unmercifully that even the glue factory eventually says no thanks. Such, I fear, is the eventual fate of this album's title tune, and it's a damned shame, because it's a remarkable song. A steady building piano ballad with a witty, full-bodied string arrangement, the elements that take it to the next level are a brilliant lyric (actually, a poem imaginative and ambiguous enough to be called "lyrical") and a chorus roughly as catchy as the Hong Kong flu.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of course, one great single and ten tracks of filler will still get you a "D" from this reviewer. But it turns out "Drops Of Jupiter" is just one of a number of very strong tracks on this thoroughly engaging album. "I Wish I Would," in addition to another clever lyric and strong arrangement featuring mandolin and harmonica, tosses in a "doo-doo-doot-doo-doo" chant near the finish that's every bit as infectious as the title track's "Na-na-na-na-etc."

There are a handful of fairly straight-ahead rockers here (the leadoff "She's On Fire" and "Respect" comes to mind), but even they have clever elements like the chunka-chunka electric rhythm guitar of the former and the furious acoustic-strum rhythm guitar of the latter. Terrific harmonies abound, propelled by Pat Monahan's urgent lead vocals, with background vox from bassist Charlie Colin and guitarists Rob Hotchkiss and Jimmy Stafford. Drummer Scott Underwood doubles on keyboards alongside the band's producer, Pearl Jam maestro Brendan O'Brien.

Under O'Brien's sonic guidance, Train explodes its acoustic roots-rock template with a wide range of styles on this disc, from the almost trip-hop rhythm of the hypnotic "It's About You," to the dreamy jazz intro of the countryish ballad "Let It Roll," to the heavy electric crunch of "Whipping Boy." In terms of musical shorthand, it would be accurate -- though unnecessarily limiting -- to compare Train's sound to bands like the Crow(e)s, Counting and Black. It's music that respects venerated rock and roll forms while infusing them with fresh passion and invention.

And that's the real secret to this album. In stark contrast to the pre-packaged attitude flooding out of your radio these days, Train has genuine range, and invests real emotion in these songs. They've found their groove, and they're mining it like champions.

Rating: A-

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© 2001 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.