Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

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Train, back on the tracks [Corrected]

February 26, 2010 |  4:30 pm

The San Francisco rock band Train sits at a peculiar juncture in pop music. Over a decade-plus career as a band, they've penned some of the most recognizable, infinitely replayed tunes on pop and rock radio, “Drops of Jupiter” and “Meet Virginia” primarily among them. Yet its most recent album, “Save Me, San Francisco,” suggests the band has something to prove.

Though the group has long been maligned as producing middlebrow, adult contemporary guitar-pop, “Save Me” is its best attempt yet to put the urgency and vitality of its hometown on an album. The single “Hey, Soul Sister,” currently holding strong at No. 7 in the Billboard Hot 100, unexpectedly lives it up to its title, with an effortless swing and Pat Monahan’s lively yet sweet-hearted vocals. After a three-year hiatus, the band has found a new instrumental swagger as well, digging deeper into rhythm and getting noisy along the edges.

At the Le Montrose hotel in West Hollywood, we recently talked with Monahan and guitarist Jimmy Stafford about the new expectations (and difficult sales climate) for rock bands today and how the Bay Area's wild legacy informs their very precise pop music.

-- August Brown

UPDATE: This post originally mis-titled the song "Meet Virginia"