Perhaps no label was as influential to a generation of music fans in their mid to late twenties than Drive-Thru Records was earlier this decade. New Found Glory, RX Bandits, Finch, The Starting Line and Something Corporate were just a few of the bands who defiantly brought "emo" out of its subtext and into mainstream conversations &mdash along with all of the genre's stigmatized marks of self-absorption. However, emo also highlighted a new brand of smart, anecdotal storytelling antithetical to the day's nu-metal and other forms of rap rock, setting course for the expansion and refinement of indie music felt today. (Enabling websites like, well, us to exist). Drive-Thru had a heavy hand in curating that taste, paving way for today's branch of sensitive and articulate song writing.
Steel Train was one of the last to board the Drive-Thru wagon, and as of August 2009, one of the last to jump off. Their recent self-titled effort contains elements key to Drive-Thru's early successes: the music is shamelessly poppy, with a familiar combination of major key build, dissonance, and introspective pacing. Despite a revolving cast of band members, Steel Train still hold true to their original incarnation, and sound like they'd be as comfortable on a 2003 Warped Tour sampler as they would with recent tourmates Tegan and Sara.
Singer and band mainstay Jack Antonoff took over vocal duties in 2008, and his punchy yelp gives Steel Train
a dance-rock air. "Turnpike Ghost" and "You Are Dangerous" both feature poppy guitar riffs and well-placed synths over a standardized &mdash but strong &mdash rhythm section. Nothing is terribly complicated, which is where Steel Train find themselves at their best.
When the band gets overly ambitious (such as on the not-too-subtle politicizing of "Soldier in the Army"), the music starts to stretch.
The album highlights with "Touch me Bad," an upbeat, lightly schizophrenic pop-punk number with all its steeps and valleys neatly predisposed. It's hardly heavy stuff, but it's fun.
Perhaps "Children of the '90s" &mdash a song that poses the bands at its most self-aware &mdash is most indicative of where Steel Train's heads are as they continue to evolve. Antonoff laments over a steep decrescendo: "But I'm not the same as I was then."
Not quite, but pretty close. - chris gayomali
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MP3: "Turnpike Ghost" (Steel Train)
Steel Train on Myspace