Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dropping The Ball, Musically: Drops Of Jupiter Disappoints.

The Good: Title track, Occasionally the lyrics, Instrumental accompaniment
The Bad: Repetitive themes, Unimaginative vocals, Musically simple
The Basics: One solid single, as usual, fails to hold the album when Train presents Drops Of Jupiter. Overall too poppy and country, the album suffers from the weaknesses of both genres.

Allow me to begin my review with my personal history of Train. Drops Of Jupiter was the first whole Train album I heard. However, the single "Meet Virginia" was the defining moment, THE song that killed my love of narrative music. It tried vastly too hard to tell a story and the reversal at the end of the song ("I can't wait to meet Virginia" was just silly and had a tacked on feel, not unlike most Brannon Braga episodes of Star Trek Voyager - that is to say it tried to be too clever, instead being very trite and dull). Moreover, some of the lyrics in that first single were just plain stupid "Wears high heels as she exercises?!" Come on!

That said, the first time I heard the opening chords to the single "Drops Of Jupiter" I was hooked. I find it nothing short of laughably ironic that there are several people who enjoyed the album but complain that the title single is overplayed. There's a reason it's being overplayed; it's a very good, if not great, song. Fans of Train ought to be glad it's getting the airplay it is, there is not a second single on the album that will perform nearly as well as "Drops Of Jupiter." Time has proved me right on this point; after "Drops Of Jupiter," Train did not chart with a second single from this album.

The easy pun is that the album is "Drips Of Jupiter." That is to say that the album accomplishes only glimpses of greatness. The saddest thing is that those glimpses are relegated to one song: "Drops Of Jupiter." At least they named the album off the strongest link. That single has great, flowing lyrics like "Tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet? Did you finally get to meet yourself somewhere out there?"

The plus sides of the album are easily defined: Drops Of Jupiter, track three. The single is tight, well written and musically competent. It's nothing extraordinary in a musical sense, but there's not much out there right now that is musically interesting on the Top 40 stations. However, it does put into play instruments besides the guitar and piano which seem to be the standards these days. Here we get some violins.

Beyond "Drops Of Jupiter," the single, only the occasional lyric on the album stands out. Track ten is a perfect example of how the album fails even lyrically; half the lyrics in the song are fresh and interesting, the rest is just mindless rhyming or drawn out "Getaway." This is a problematic thing for an album to get into; trying hard to have original lyrics and tell stories while using some of the most predictable rhyme schemes available.

The only other quasi-impressive aspect of the album is the diversity of the instruments. Not the music, mind you, but the instruments. "Let It Role" concludes with a wonderful use of strings. Unfortunately, it's somewhat pointless in that it is 1. the end of the song and 2. it doesn't fit either "Let It Role" or the song that follows. Random segue. There's an almost completely random sense of use of instruments on this album. But, it's good to see a musical "pop" artist that knows about instruments other than drums, bass, guitar and piano. Too bad Train doesn't know how to - or fails to - use them.

The lead singer is vocally talented, but uses very little of that. I figure Train is as popular as it is because of the Bush syndrome; that is the attractiveness of the lead singer compensates for a lack of real talent in the writing, singing, etc.

The album suffers from the standard pop problems of generally mixed lyrics. Train has some that are sharp and brilliant, but are far too often diluted with lame rhymes and flaky, immature lines. Sadly, they are also not terribly musically diverse. The songs sound remarkably similar to each other, with even "Drops Of Jupiter" bearing remarkable similarities to other tracks.

In the end Drops Of Jupiter does not seem to know what it actually wants to be; it wants to have the pop sound with the tracks it releases to the public (i.e. "Drops Of Jupiter"), but then has tracks that use the guitars and drums like current country. Train feels like a group that is hedging its bets; if it can't get popularity on the pop charts, from the styles of songs on this album, it seems like it will try to chart on the Country charts.

Perhaps the next take will produce something worthy of listening to, but until then I won't hold my breath. I will, however, continue to enjoy the single "Drops Of Jupiter" when I hear it on the radio. It's unfortunate that a group that has such a good single cannot produce something more consistent in an album.

For other albums from "one hit wonders," be sure to check out my takes on:
No Name Face - Lifehouse
This Fire - Paula Cole
Icon - Frou Frou and Imogen Heap


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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