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Steel Train
Steel Train

_ Terrible Thrills _

Preparing to listen to Steel Train’s self-titled third album, I return to the group’s last effort, Trampoline. Surprisingly, three years have passed since it released. It’s not just that the album sounds as fresh today as it did then, or would have years earlier, but I’ve come to the realization that somehow we’ve lasted without new music from the New Jersey-bred rockers for this long. Filled with a natural gift to write impact rock ‘n’ roll, Steel Train had nothing but its previous achievement to confront when producing the follow up. The group goes minimal with the title but that’s the only place where they didn’t allow their creativity to unfold.

Don’t be fooled by the cover. The band hasn’t developed a punk-fueled edge that equals the Doc Marten-wearing cover subject, although “Touch Me Bad” reproduces a perfect a New Wave pop moment. Instead, it has adhered to the spirit of coming of age, where the dreams and frustrations, influences and imagination are bred in one’s bedroom (“Children of the ’90 (I’m Not the Same)”).

On Steel Train the members continue making music that raises the temperature in a club as well as reaches to those sitting in the cheap seats. Numbers such as opening tracks “Bullet” and the glam-happy “Turnpike Ghost” display an evolved songwriting mentality that slides into artier territory but they lack any of the accompanying pretensions. Within an economical 41 minutes the 12 songs serve up the passionate delivery and instrumental textures found in the works of Bruce Springsteen and the Arcade Fire – artists who have seamlessly blended intimacy with arena rock conventions. At times one can also hear echoes of Kings of Leon or even the Killers, particularly on “You and I Undercover,” but what overpowers those thoughts is that even with it antennae aware of the past and the present, Steel Train maintains an ability to come out of it as a stronger force than when it started.

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