Calling All Agents
A few things in life are inevitable: taxes, elections, and Britney Spears appearing in the tabloids partying. Yet for quirky mainstream pop group Train, it was absolutely inevitable that frontman Pat Monahan would eventually release a solo record. After all, each progressive album was getting further away from the low-key charm that made songs like “Meet Virginia” and “Eggplant” so gosh-darn lovable (and closer to The Pat Monahan Show starring Pat Monahan). On Last of Seven, Monahan actually does something a bit unexpected: he makes a record that doesn’t sound like something he could’ve created within the confines of his band. Instead, he breaks out his Marc Cohn collection and aims right for the heart of Adult Contemporary radio. His niche specialty remains writing songs about neurotic women (top-notch single “Her Eyes”), but when Monahan tries to reach for the vaguely political on “Cowboys and Indians”, it’s near-impossible to cringe at his overreach (“Lawyers and Army men / the left and the right / preachers and Communists / oh, what a sight”). Yet, there’s still oddly exciting moments on Last of Seven: “Ripple in the Water” is watered down jam-band maneuvers transplanted into the realm of pop-rock; the ballad “Always Midnight” is oddly affecting; and the understated groove of “Girlfriend” is immensely captivating. At 14 tracks in length, Monahan’s first solo disc is far too long, but perhaps the biggest surprise about the whole project is not just how strongly it stands in comparison to his band, but how strongly it stands by itself.
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