Steel Train – Trampoline

  • Bobby Gorman posted
  • Reviews

Steel Train

Trampoline - Drive-Thru Records

I hated Steel Train. I found them boring and could never get into them no matter how much I listened to them. Their covers EP, 1969, showed some promise, but they were all covers. Their debut, Twilight Tales From The Prairies Of The Sun, was painfully boring to listen to. So much so that I can hardly believed I listened to it all the way through at all. So I hated Steel Train.

But then I saw the New Jersey act open up for The Format a few months ago, and I changed my mind about them a bit. Twilight Tales From The Prairies Of The Sun still bored the living hell out of me, but they only played one or two songs from that release. Instead, their entire set consisted of cuts from their upcoming record, Trampoline. There was something in the songs that caught my attention and I actually became excited to hear the album I was previously dreading.

Now, with Trampoline actually out on the streets, I’m glad to say I no longer hate Steel Train, although it’s still not quite as good as I had hoped.

Trampoline still suffers from some extremely long winded songs, but they’re able to control them better than they did on Twilight Tales. Leaving behind the country flare that battered down their debut, Steel Train have adopted more of a folk-pop flare to the record. This transition enables the band to add more to their sound without muffling everything – something that happened all too often on Twilight Tales. Here, the band’s sound is crisp and clear as all the elements build on top of one another instead of smothering each other. The sound mixing is superb letting the needed instrumentals take the lead at the right time – be it the driving drum beat of Dakota or the clapping and background vocals on Firecracker. It lets the songs be diverse while maintaining a unified feel to them.

Like their 1969 EP, Trampoline has a sixties pop vibe to it, and it works a lot better than expected. Kill Monsters In The Rain has a sparse folk sound while Alone On The Sea cracks the seven minute mark without batting an eye and growing steadily in momentum and passion. A Magazine is a soft piano pop cut which is in turned followed by a much more energetic, almost danceable, Diamonds In The Sky. Throughout it all, it is Jack Antonoff’s previously annoying vocals that take the cake. Having learnt a thing or two from Nate Russ of The Format, Antonoff’s vocals are much stronger than on previous releases and he’s able to carry the songs forward when they start to become slightly stale.

However, it’s not perfect, and the second half of the record does tend to fall on deaf ears. Not particularly bad songs, but not as catchy as the early tracks and with many of them lasting four to five minutes long, the end seems like a never approachable entity. Of course, as the songs play through there are few complaints, Leave You Traveling is still one of the highlights of the album, but they are never songs you want to come back and listen to over and over again; a quality that a few of the earlier tracks did contain.

Overall though, an impressive release of folk-pop. Far from perfect, but strong enough for me to say I no longer despise the band.