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Snap judgments - Train: California 37

The sixth album by local pop trio Train follows the milquetoast-y sonic blueprint of the group’s earlier work. While there are a few departures (see the country duet “Bruises” and the Latin horn–driven “50 Ways to Say Goodbye”), the threesome’s newest release mainly adheres to their chart-tested formula—not surprisingly, given the massive success of 2009’s inescapable hit “Hey, Soul Sister.” Most tracks on California 37 (named for the highway that connects Novato to Vallejo) feature the band’s usual acoustic strumming, ’80s-era cheeseball synths, ginormous guitar hooks, ubiquitous pop culture name-dropping, and calculatedly goofy rhymes (to wit: “Can’t swim so I took a boat / to an island so remote / only Johnny Depp has ever been to it before,” from the interspecies love song “Mermaid”). All this cheerful schmaltz would be overwhelming if it weren’t for Pat Monahan and friends’ ability to craft melodies so catchy and choruses so soaring that they get stuck in your head for weeks, months, years. Critical analysis is useless. In the end, liking a Train album is akin to liking a cosmopolitan. You either go in for sticky-sweet concoctions that slide down so easily you forget you’ve had them—or you don’t.

 

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