Train

Bulletproof Picasso

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Train experienced a shake-up after the 2012 release California 37, with drummer Scott Underwood departing the band, leaving just vocalist Pat Monahan and guitarist Jimmy Stafford as the original members. As the group have steadily worked with a number of writing and producing collaborators during their second decade, the absence of Underwood isn't felt so much on 2014's Bulletproof Picasso. If anything, this record feels like a tight, streamlined revision of its predecessor, toning down some -- but by no means all -- of Monahan's lyrical flights of fancy while honing the music so it slyly reflects so many new millennial pop trends. "I'm Drinkin' Tonight" opens with cinematic dustiness -- all reverbed guitars and minor-key strumming -- but the ghost of Americana in Train's music is long, long gone. Monahan and Stafford, often assisted by either Espionage or Butch Walker, choose to offer their own interpretations of the golden hits of the 2010s. Naturally, there are a lot of big-beat stompalongs in the vein of Imagine Dragons, but these moments -- "Angel in Blue Dreams," "I Will Remember" -- aren't nearly as infectious as when Train cops some of the style of Bruno Mars, as on the opener "Cadillac, Cadillac," where Monahan does his best Sting falsetto," the ebullient "Wonder What You're Doing for the Rest of Your Life," or "The Bridge," whose faux Motown bounce is almost worthy of Fine Young Cannibals. What ties these highlights together is an emphasis on hooks and crisp, open audio: this is music that's produced like classic pop, which also means they do not rely on Monahan's quasi-autobiographical journal entries or cut-and-paste collages. He may have pushed these words down in the mix, but they still run throughout Bulletproof Picasso, and they sometimes distract ("Cadillac, Cadillac take me home/I'd rather play games on my G4 phone"), but by pushing feel over meaning, Train have wound up emphasizing their strengths.

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