Train, "For Me, It's You"
It has been a few years since Train's big hit "Drops of Jupiter" was a fixture of the FM rock radio airwaves, and the world of pop music has moved on. No matter: The band that once promised, with a straight face, to be the "best soy latte" we'd ever drink has, unsurprisingly, never been too concerned with the cutting edge of rock 'n' roll cool.
According to Billboard, Train "remain dedicated to anthemic rock songs with perfect pop hooks that can crack adult top 40 playlists in a split second," and so it goes with "For Me, It's You," an album that is apparently both "big-hearted" and "giant-chorused." Indeed, All Music Guide (three and a half stars out of five) is so impressed with the mainstream rock qualities of Train's latest that it gets a bit "American Psycho" in its meticulous appraisal, noting that one cut is "accompanied by a piano part that's worthy of one of Billy Joel's finest songs, painterly synth, strummed acoustic guitars, and a killer string arrangement." AMG also observes that while "the sound of 'For Me, It's You' is less strident" than usual, it is "edgier and digs deeper into older musics and styles." For Newsday (Grade D), however, such embellishments merely serve to further exasperate: "In the end, 'For Me, It's You' is a waste of time and effort because it cuts so many corners and takes on so many pretensions that it couldn't even do what Train does best. It couldn't even get bland right."
Andrea Bocelli, "Amore"
Just in time for Valentine's Day, the king of romantic light-classical crooning goes pop, after a fashion. Italian singer Andrea Bocelli's latest collection includes interpretations of hits for such chart toppers as Perry Como and Engelbert Humperdinck, as well as featuring guest appearances from Stevie Wonder, Kenny G and -- believe it or not -- Christina Aguilera.
Billboard is suitably swept off its feet, lauding "Bocelli's signature sweet and light-toned voice, framed this time by lush and dreamy strings," while the Los Angeles Times (three out of four) is playing a little harder to get: "Sometimes the orchestral backing slathers on too much syrupy sweetness; he's most effective in simpler arrangements with acoustic guitar and percussion with a subtle Latin jazz-pop slant." The New York Post (four stars out of four) is the most easily pleased; noting that Bocelli sings in French, Spanish and Italian on "Amore," it sighs: "You may not always know what he's saying, but you'll love how he says it."
The language barrier may even have its benefits, if the lyrics to the English version of the track "Ama Credi Evai" are anything to go by. "Like stars across the sky/ We were born to shine/ All of us here because we believe," Bocelli sings. "How nice for us!" smirks the New York Times.
She Wants Revenge, "She Wants Revenge"
New Los Angeles group She Wants Revenge might sound like they fit the hot new band template, or at least the hot new band template from three years ago: "A retro goth-pop duo that out-Interpols Interpol," as Rolling Stone (three stars out of five) calls them. But this isn't singer Justin Warfield's first attempt at riding the pop music zeitgeist. Indeed, this would be the same Justin Warfield who first appeared in 1993 as a Prince Paul-produced, "daisy age"-inspired rapper (on "My Field Trip to Planet 9") and resurfaced a couple of years later with "The Justin Warfield Supernaut," an album of Lenny Kravitz-esque faux '70s guitar jams.
So, has Warfield finally hit on a winning formula with She Wants Revenge's eponymous debut? The record certainly has its influences carefully mapped out, at least according to Rolling Stone, which finds the band "deploying snippets of Joy Division, Bauhaus, the Cure and other dark New Wave acts with a precision that borders on parody." But while Rolling Stone concludes that She Wants Revenge "steal from the best, and steal well," others are less than convinced. The San Francisco Chronicle (three out of five) calls the group "the made-for-TV version of Joy Division, channeling the darkness without any of the enlightenment," while the New York Times says that "She Wants Revenge" is "all very retro and atmospheric, but so contrived that it's hard to take too seriously."
"'She Wants Revenge' could have been the best the album of 1983," observes Newsday (Grade B), nailing the issue for many critics. "The problem, of course, is that [it] didn't come out 23 years ago. It's here now you can't help but wonder why they've done it."
-- Matt Glazebrook