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An Incoming Train Wreck – The Fan Response to Train’s New Sound

There seems to be an exodus of sorts occurring among fans of Train, the band behind the early-2000s radio hit “Drops of Jupiter” and the lively and energetic 2009 album Save Me, San Francisco. Their next album, A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, will be releasing later this week, boasting a brand new sound influenced heavily by modern pop rock. It follows many left-turns made by the band in the past few years which included the departure of founding member Scott Underwood and the transformation of the band from a modest three-piece to a mass ensemble of live musicians, a Christmas album in 2015, and even a fully fleshed-out cover of Led Zeppelin II released last year. It’s quite the adventure taken by a band with such a large following, but it seems that the following itself is largely not pleased with the detours that they’ve been taken through.

Over the past few weeks, the band have been releasing new tracks from their upcoming album that releases worldwide on 27 January. The conglomerate of these previews consists a sound that is radically different from the band’s previous discography, which was mostly traditional rock and country-like folk. Instead, A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat goes in a direction that is more reminiscent of today’s pop rock sound – flamboyant choruses, mechanical big-bass production and relatively simplistic lyrics accompanied by catchy and repetitive melodies. For a majority of Train’s fan base, whom have been comfortable with the mostly stripped, acoustic-driven folk sound of the band for over a decade, have displayed quite the resistance to the new album. They have shown no fear or remorse in harshly criticizing the band on social media, often describing the new sound as “overproduced”, and routinely accusing the band of selling out to the mainstream. Comments on the band’s new music have ranged from smart remarks to anger-fueled tantrums.

One commenter made a particularly colourful criticism of the album’s production – “I don’t know who it is forcing Pat to mail in vapid, robotic music for the masses, but whoever you are, please knock it off.” Another commenter expressed their anger in this way – “I’ll come back to you if you bring Jimmy and Scott back and do real music, I feel like this is completely selling out of what made you Train and just giving in to whatever is popular.” The lyrics of the new album, especially those of “The News” have also come under fire by the band’s fanbase, with one pointing out, “He’s so in love with her that he’s acting like an unhinged maniac? I feel we just get lost in this metaphor that gets set up and then just keeps being expanded upon without being fully explained or brought to a focal point.”

Others have also publicly renounced their support for the band, with a particular alleged long-time supporter stating in response to the announcement of dates on the Play That Song Tour, “I’m sad I won’t be going this year. Train has been my favourite band for years and have seen them 5 times. But I just really dislike this album and I wonder what happened.” Ticket prices have also been a source of anger towards the band – “$157 for lawn seats at the Colorado show. Sorry train, been a fan before everyone knew you but not paying that price, I can buy your entire catalogue for that”; a remark by another alleged long-time fan. Some fans have gone further and have also addressed guitarist and founding member Jimmy Stafford’s rather confusing “part-time” relationship with the band, with a commenter stating that “[it] would be nice to the fans to stop guessing if the [Sail Across the Sun cruise] will be his last time with the band.”

For the most part, the fear of judgement that would usually be a factor for a member with a dissenting opinion in most other fanbases is moot on Train’s pages, since it’s become quite the norm these days for any Train fan to express their disappointment publicly and have considerable support behind them. Top comments on posts made by the official Facebook page for Train are usually negative ones, with comment sections of posts previewing new songs from the album often being filled with angst. The only comments with double-digit “likes” these days on Train’s Facebook page are usually passionate expressions of outrage or disappointment.

One could easily dismiss these opinions as voices of a vocal minority – Train still have 4.6 million “likes” on Facebook and 452 thousand followers on Twitter, right? Well, these numbers, correct as of 23 January 2017, used to be bigger. This time last year, Train had over 200 thousand more likes on Facebook. Over a thousand have also jumped ship from Train on Twitter since November 2016. The stats are part of a greater downward trend for Train that started since Bulletproof Picasso, the band’s last original studio album released in 2014, and was largely influenced by the aforementioned questionable decisions by the band including the cover of Led Zeppelin II, which was released to mixed reviews both by critics and fans.

The loss of followers on social media is quite a contradiction to the usual pattern, in which a band gains a slate of new followers in anticipation of a new release, or after a new release. Compare with other artists on the same level of popularity as Train; The xx, whom released I See You earlier this month, gained over 74 thousand new likes on Facebook since the release of “On Hold”, a track from the album, in November 2016. In the same time, Train had lost 24 thousand likes. To even further emphasize the unusual situation Train has gotten themselves into, even Gorillaz, whom had also put out controversial new music deemed by its fanbase to be poor, have still gained followers on Facebook. Since the release of the Gorillaz’s track, “Hallelujah Money” on 19 January, they have gained 8 thousand likes on Facebook. In similar four-day time frames after the release of Train’s “The News” and “Drink Up”, both tracks from their new album, Train had lost a thousand likes each time.

Frontman Pat Monahan, while stating that “every album I’ve ever been a part of writing has had a fair amount of difficulty”, has described A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat as the “most fun and fulfilling” album he’s made with the band yet. While the new sound is, in an objective way, refreshing to hear after a couple of albums with the same general sound, it’ll be ultimately up to fans to decide whether or not what he considers to be “fun and fulfilling” is the right direction for the band to take both musically and commercially. From what we’ve seen so far, the answer is most likely going to be… no. With outrage and disappointment aplenty across Train’s fanbase, it’s unlikely that a band in decline will be able to propel A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat to any kind of weightful commercial success with the lack of support they have evidently been receiving in the past few weeks and months.


A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat will be released by Columbia Records on 27 January 2017 through iTunes and Google Play, and will be available to stream on Apple Music and Spotify the same day. Be sure to follow Altwire and “like” us on Facebook for more updates on Train and more!

14 Comments

  1. DeRailed

    Well written article.

    While I like some of the new songs, the old Train is a much better and authentic band. I would take “Hopeless”, “Parachute” or “I Am” over the current batch of songs.

    For a long time, Pat has run the show and is making the music he wants to make and be heard on the radio – and what’s playing on the radio is this overproduced pop.

    I think Pat, who is extremely talented and smart, needs to take a break from Crush Management and give Scott and Jimmy a call and talk over some fried chicken and soy lattes.

  2. Paul Smith

    Commercialism isn’t for everyone. Train will have plenty of sheep drooling over whatever they do, they don’t need me anymore. Have not liked their sound since Save Me San Fran.

  3. rhodyutahphil

    Really disappointed to what I have just read and Jimmy Stafford’s part-time status. Is doubly confusing. How do you that to someone you have been standing side by side and his twitter messages give off a completely different vibe. You can tell he disagreed with the song selections for this CD. It does not work either. The songs are terrible and belong to an all girl or boy band not Train. Is this really worth it?

  4. Wayne Woodall

    I agree with Paul. Something is big time amiss with Pat’s uncontrollable desire to be the king of everything. My wife says from the look of his trousers…. Well, you can figure out what she says.

  5. kiki123789

    I attended Train’s concert in Birmingham, AL this past Wednesday. Train has stated on many occasions that B’ham is the city that gave them their start and they were so happy to return and perform a fantastic show. As a long, long time fan (first saw them at a local concert series Big Spring Jam in Huntsville, AL in ’97/’98) I have traveled to larger cities to see their performances and this is the first time I have been disappointed.
    When California 37 was released, I didn’t purchase the music until I had purchased that year’s concert tickets. I was not totally disappointed but I did find that there were very few songs that I enjoyed on that album. I thought it had to be a one off and that Bulletproof Picasso was going to be back on track (no pun intended) but yet again, I was disappointed. I have not purchased any music from A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat and after attending the associated concert, I will not be purchasing any of the music.
    I am hoping that if enough of their fans come together, maybe Train (or I should say Pat Monahan since he is the only original member) will listen and return to the style that had all of us following them in the first place.
    The lyrics and sounds they produced on their first three albums and some of the songs on For Me, Its You and Save Me San Francisco are what made me buy concert tickets for them year after year, sometimes twice in one year!. My usual excitement of attending their concerts started to drop after Save Me San Francisco tour and this last concert I remember telling my boyfriend that I really didn’t even want to go because I didn’t want to be further disappointed. In all honesty, I would have not purchased the tickets, which started at $60 and went up to much more than I would ever spend, had Live Nation not been running a summer sale; $20 each for the tickets. After the concert was over, I remember thinking “I drove 1 1/2 hours and sat in the rain for this?” The only bright spots with the whole concert was Trains older songs and O.A.R. as an opener. The other opener was Natasha Bedingfield; I was not impressed and I was horrified when she sang Bruises with Monahan. Speaking of Monahan, I hope that his voice box was sore or he was suffering from a cold. His usual alto-tenor range was very restricted and the 2 female back-up singers did much of the high notes. To my knowledge, Train has never had back-up singers and it has been my experience that male singers use female back-up singers for this purpose only when they are ill or when they have aged beyond the high notes. It may be that Train is no longer the engine that could and that they need to be moved off the main lines. (sorry for that, couldn’t help myself)

    Through all of this rambling, I have realized that if this is the way Train continues to go, I will have to give up my “trainiac” (hate that name) status and just listen to their good songs when I need a fix. By the way, in my opinion, their debut album is still the best and my favorite song, which I think is terribly under rated, is I’m About to Come Alive from My Private Nation

    • Dawn Weir Paulo

      I just saw Train last night in Mansfield, MA…6/11/17…..While I still loved it, I do miss Jimmy Stafford on Guitar…., and Scott on the drums. It just didn’t seem the same without them. I do love their earlier albums more the past few and I totally agree with you kiki123789 that “I’m About to Come Alive” is one of the best Train songs ever!! I think My Private Nation is a fantastic album and another of my favorite’s is “If It’s Love” from Save me San Francisco.

    • Irish Dude

      Agree with a lot of your points as I have recently seen a show:
      >Bruises is a disaster with Natasha singing it. Please stop this duet
      > Pat did sound different – thought it was the sound system
      >OAR put on a great show
      > I’m About to Come Alive is a terrific Charlie Colin song – underrated release from Train

      • Laura

        I saw them in Wantagh NY in June. I agree, the Bruises duet was terrible… and Pat’s voice sounded weird. My friend and I looked at eachother as soon as he started singing, and wondered if he had a cold or something..

  6. s t

    I don’t get it– Pat did his own thing back in 2007. Last of Seven was completely different than A Girl A Bottle A Boat… yet to my knowledge, Last of Seven was entirely his doing. I’m surprised and confused as to how he thinks AGABAB is the “most fulfilling’ thing he’s written.

    I miss Train. I’ve sat in line for 7 hours waiting for their free concerts and I’ve driven hours to see them, in 3 different states. My dogs’ registered names are lines from their songs. I cannot tell you the last time I went a day without listening to at least one of their songs, or more realistically, several. The last time I saw them was 2015, and it was eye opening– the late teens seated near me who fawned over songs I can’t stand (Mermaid is easily my least favorite song, well, besides the entire AGABAB album), and didn’t know any of the words to Drops or Free or any of the original Train songs. I won’t be seeing this year’s tour. I’m heartbroken to have lost a band that has meant so much to me for so long… so I guess I’ll just keep listening to the “old” stuff. Also, Jimmy is releasing his solo stuff– really looking forward to that.

    • IrishDude

      AGABAB is a good release with a lot of fun party songs BUT it is not music Train fans would expect based on prior records.
      Pat wanted to bring a more positive vibe to this release – good for him – there is too much negativity in this world.

      I will say You Better Believe is an outstanding song and will be really interested to see what Train will do next

  7. rhodyutahphil

    I have not bought AGABAB but I have to listened to it on Spotify several times. It’s not good. There are maybe three songs that are worth a damn. The rest of it sucks. I have always found some songs to like and relate on every album. This one just blows. I am hopeful that they sound better live in a few weeks. It struck me as odd when Scott after Save Me San Francisco and how Jimmy has been removed & reduced to a part-time role. He was a founding member of the band. He is a very good guitar player. Also, I think people got carried away with criticism of the Led Zeppelin II tribute album. That what it was meant to be. It was an album that influenced them as young adult males. Their influence and sound helped shaped them as musicians. That’s all they were trying to say. This album had a big impact on me, not we can do it better than Led Zeppelin. Yet this album

  8. Ana Sabrina George

    This summer was my 4th time seeing Train in Bristow, Va. I am happy I went! Look, every band evolves. Their sounds are never stagnant. Just look at the Beatles. I am so sorry Jimmy was not there, and I can’t wait to hear his new album, but frankly, my life is filled with pressure, and going to a concert where I can drink, sing along, and let off steam is not a bad thing. The goers included kids, Trainiacs, new fans, and people who are sick of Washington DC. My favorite song from the new album is “Working Girl” and he paid tribute to strong females across time and cultures. I lost it when Princess Leia’s image went up. I am not sure what happened behind the scenes, but his back up singers have been there the last 4 times and they have gorgeous voices. It’s ok to like pop, and acoustic, and classical, and country, etc. And musicians are human. They are going to change. As long as it continues to be fun I will continue to be the Trainiac I have been since “Meet Virginia.”

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