Release Date: May 20th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- AM Gold
- Running Back (Trying To Talk To You)
- Cleopatra (feat. Sofia Reyes)
- Bettin’ On Me
- Fake Flowers
- Turn The Radio Up (feat. Jewel)
- Amber Light
- Easy On The Eyes
- Ain’t No Easy Way
- Singing Alone
- It’s Everything
Last year, rock band Train, who at that point hadn’t released any new material since 2017’s a girl, a bottle, a boat, unveiled their 20th Anniversary Edition of their 2001 album Drops Of Jupiter. We’ve reviewed that album here, and I basically mentioned that some albums are iconic, some stand the test of time, and remind us all why music is so resonating, comforting, healing, impacting and influential; some albums are special, and some albums are ones that you cherish, that you revisit time and time again. I said that in the sense that the album Drops Of Jupiter is so iconic and legendary, that even if Train isn’t popular right now (which they aren’t!), their re-release of this album is sure to bring their popularity back up again. Because I firmly reckon that many of the songs from Drops Of Jupiter are all timeless in their own way- in lyrical content, sound and general atmosphere that make them just plain good rock songs. Songs that transport you back in time and back to simpler times- this is what Train accomplishes when releasing these songs, especially in this album. And while Jon has blogged about Train in his blog series and I’m not as across them as I would have liked; Drops Of Jupiter nevertheless is poignant, heartfelt and moving- as these 11 songs are as cohesive and free-flowing as any album- similar in flow to John Mayer’s Continuum, The Afters’ Life Is Beautiful, Little Mix’s Glory Days, Michael W. Smith’s Live The Life and Leona Lewis’ Spirit to name a few. Fast forward to now, and here we are, with Train unveiling their ‘comeback’ album of sorts- a pop/rock album called AM Gold. It’s their first new music in 5 years (aside from standalone singles “Mai Tais” with Skylar Grey and “Rescue Dog”) and so… I guess the bar was set high. Singles like “When I Look To The Sky”, “Calling All Angels”, “Hey Soul Sister”, “Marry Me”, “If It’s Love”, “Drive By’”, “50 Ways To Say Goodbye”, “Bruises” and “Drops Of Jupiter” have all resonated with me deeply… but after a few listens to AM Gold, he results for me are… mixed, to put it lightly.
First of all, let me just say that I’m not really a harsh marker. I’m easy-going, at least in terms of the music that I like. Out of all the albums that I reviewed last year for this site, more than 50% were 4.5 and over out of 5. More often than not, I try to find the positives in any album, and I can spin a review to look on the bright side. However, in my opinion AM Gold just simply wasn’t good. You might have a different opinion, and that’s ok. But to me, this was 30-something minutes of a snooze fest. If you’re a fan of Train… well then, I’d have to say that any other album would be better than this. It’s sad, because “Call Me Sir”, a single from 2018, was pretty cool. So… what happened to this album? I don’t actually know. Though I’m sure these guys put their heart and soul into these melodies… I don’t know, there’s something about this that feels quite off.
Opening the album is the title track, and let me tell you, it’s clear these guys don’t know how to structure their album musically. Pronounced ‘A-M Gold’, the title track speaks about feeling the kind of internal mono love from yourself that you should feel all the time, versus the perceived love from outside of yourself which may not be real. It’s a cool concept, but this song musically falls flat, with the pop/disco feeling and atmosphere not really working. Pat Monahan’s vocals are on point, but these lyrics are so cheesy (‘…you’re a hit, you know, cause you’re legit, you know…), and the song itself just feels downright painful. Someone may resonate with “AM Gold”, but it isn’t me. If I want disco music, then this isn’t it, and I’ll stick with Kylie Minogue’s DISCO.
The rest of AM Gold is fine, but overall, it’s a pretty forgettable affair. “Running Back (Trying To Talk To You)” is a piano ballad and a love song, whereby Pat sings about love through the lens of the struggles of being a NFL running back (the melody is said to be written about Pat’s friend Marshawn Lynch), but the song drags and literally puts me to sleep- it’s a literal lullaby in my opinion! “Cleopatra”, a pop jam with Sofia Reyes, is a song about a forbidden love and a love that no one understands. However, it’s a song that lyrically doesn’t make much sense- because I don’t know whether the song is championing unhealthy relationships or not- it’s a feel-good song but lyrically the vagueness leaves much to be desired. “Bettin’ On Me”, a slower ballad whereby the persona is lamenting on a lost love because he ‘bet’ on himself rather than betting on her and making decisions based on his supposed love for her, is another lullaby that I couldn’t really get into; while “Fake Flowers”, though lyrically and thematically quite profound, is musically uninteresting also. With this song, Pat sings about never really knowing his ex, because she showed a fake version of herself from the start. And hence, he couldn’t mourn the relationship because it wasn’t real from the start. It’s a concept that some of us can relate to- the ones who may be unlucky in love for various reasons- but despite the lyrical strength here, the music and pacing of this melody is atrocious.
One of the few bright sparks in AM Gold is “Turn The Radio Up”. It’s a gospel/R&B/pop influenced melody with Jewel on guest vocals, and with the melody speaking about having a good time and jamming out to songs on the radio instead of wallowing in self-pity over another break-up; this song is just the track we need to help us forget about our troubles, if only for a little while. Unfortunately, the mediocre tracks continue, with the back half running together without any tracks that stick out and go ‘wow’! “Amber Light” is a rock melody whereby Pat laments about a high school romance and longs to go back to the simplicities of life rather than stay in the complexities of the present, but again this melody doesn’t sparkle and doesn’t have the ‘it’ factor. Similarly, “Easy On The Eyes” is a jazzy tune that technically hits all of the right notes, but is again missing the uniqueness and specialness- it’s a song where Pat sings a song of sorrow and hurt and pain to his ex- but we don’t feel his pain in the song for some reason.
“Ain’t No Easy Way” is a melody where Pat proclaims that love isn’t easy, and then says that life being lived in the mountains and in the country and in the city is easy. It’s a song meant to contrast and juxtapose, but this song instead makes me feel frustrated- because again, here we have another song that doesn’t resonate with me- another song that to me feels mediocre. “Singing Alone”, a jazz ballad where Pat champions singing (aka living) alone and by yourself because you get more freedom and you have the ability to be non-committal to relationships if you want that in your life at the moment; is a song that I for one understand, but the execution and delivery doesn’t come off as I think it should’ve- it’s a song that celebrates singleness, but a song that doesn’t feel as vulnerable or as honest as I think it should’ve been. And as AM Gold winds down with “It’s Everything”, we are presented with a rare diamond in the rough, as the acoustic guitar ballad is probably Train’s best song on the album. With the persona breaking up from his partner because of reasons not listed in the song, Pat lists out the qualities of the person that he will miss about her. It’s a sweet, romantic, break-up melody that feels like an honest letter. This is what Train should be like- not these half-hearted pop ballads that say something but say nothing at the same time.
Train have always been lyrical geniuses and musical maestros- I’ve heard a fair amount of their songs around the same time Jon was blogging about then a couple of years ago. AM Gold sadly is an album that, for five years in the making, is incredibly underwhelming. I was expecting something that would sparkle, that would be undoubtedly the album of the year. Because no doubt, these guys are crazily talented. But AM Gold is just… there. It’s an album that I’d only listen to in the background, and I’m really being generous. Maybe my point of view will change in the coming weeks and months. But as it stands right now… Train’s new album isn’t even worth it to borrow for a limited time. In this age of Spotify where you can cherry pick songs, I’ll definitely encourage you to cherry pick here. “Turn The Radio Up”, “It’s Everything”… and not much else.
3 songs to listen to: Fake Flowers, Turn The Radio Up, It’s Everything
RIYL: Goo Goo Dolls, John Mayer, Audio Adrenaline, dc Talk, Newsboys, Lifehouse, Needtobreathe