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Arriving at the twilight of the post-grunge era, Train managed to simultaneously exist squarely at the center of American mainstream rock while not belonging to any particular trend. Despite the hard rock background of lead singer Pat Monahan, the San Franciscan-based combo never sounded particularly heavy. Instead, they tapped into the sturdy sounds of classic rock, an aesthetic epitomized by their breakthrough "Drops of Jupiter." That 2001 international smash gave Train a career, but the group turned into superstars in 2009 when the breezy "Hey, Soul Sister" established the combo as adult contemporary superstars. Certified as sextuple platinum, "Hey, Soul Sister" was a sunny, nostalgic number that illustrated how Train was quintessentially Californian: they were transplants drawn to the West Coast, besotted by the sounds and sights of the Pacific, preferring good times to grit. After "Hey, Soul Sister," Monahan and Train made no bones about celebrating their adopted home, in the process racking up a string of Top Ten adult contemporary hits that stretched into the late 2010s.
Following the dissolution of his Led Zeppelin cover band, singer Pat Monahan left his hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania, in late 1993. He resettled in California and crossed paths with Rob Hotchkiss, the former frontman of a Los Angeles group named the Apostles. The two formed their own duo and began playing local coffeehouse shows, eventually expanding the group to a trio with the addition of former Apostles guitarist Jimmy Stafford. Bassist Charlie Colin and drummer Scott Underwood also climbed aboard, thus solidifying Train's lineup in 1994.
Over the course of several years, Train developed a sizable audience in the San Francisco area. The band also toured the country, opening shows for the likes of Barenaked Ladies and Counting Crows while drumming up enough money to record an album. Although few labels showed interest at first, Train eventually attracted the attention of Columbia Records, who signed the band to one of its smaller labels -- Aware Records -- and issued the self-financed debut record Train in 1998. "Meet Virginia" became a Top 40 hit one year later, but the band truly hit its stride in 2001, when Drops of Jupiter became a multi-platinum success thanks to its titular single. The song remained in the Top 40 for nearly 40 weeks, while the album itself sold more than three million copies.
My Private Nation followed in 2003 and went platinum, largely due to the successful single "Calling All Angels." Although the album didn't yield any more Top 40 hits, three of its songs fared well on the adult contemporary charts, a sign that Train had traded its alternative rock roots for an older fan base. For Me, It's You followed in 2006, but sales proved to be the lowest of Train's career. Accordingly, Monahan briefly turned his focus inward, releasing a solo album in 2007 and briefly touring behind it. He returned to the fold shortly thereafter, though, and Train issued their fifth album, Save Me, San Francisco, in 2009. The album helped rejuvenate Train's career, with "Hey, Soul Sister" peaking at number three on the Billboard 100. In 2012, the band released its sixth studio album, California 37, which debuted at number four on the Billboard chart.
Despite these successes, the bandmembers felt that mainstream "cool" continued to elude them. Monahan spoke of wanting to record an album that was more commercial, but would also connect emotionally with the public. With these ambitious goals, they knuckled down to writing and recording a new album, though without drummer and founding member Scott Underwood, who left the band amicably before production began and was replaced by Drew Shoals. Train's seventh studio album, Bulletproof Picasso, was finished in 2014 and released in September of that year. It was preceded by the slick, country-tinged single "Angel in Blue Jeans," which didn't make many waves on the charts. Nevertheless, the album debuted at number five on the Billboard Top 200.
A year later, after Bulletproof Picasso failed to generated any subsequent hit singles ("Cadillac, Cadillac" and "Bulletproof Picasso" did make the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart), Train released the seasonal Christmas in Tahoe. The following summer, Train covered the entirety of Led Zeppelin's second album with Does Led Zeppelin II; the album peaked at 71 on Billboard. In September 2016, Train released "Play That Song," the first taste from their tenth album. Not long afterward, lead guitarist Jimmy Stafford announced he was leaving the band on good terms. He did not play on a girl a bottle a boat, which appeared in January 2017. The following year saw the band issue the collaborative singles "Philly Forget Me Not" (with Daryl Hall and John Oates) and "Call Me, Sir" (with Cam and Travie McCoy). ~ Andrew Leahey & Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- San Francisco, CA
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