The guys of Train are the undisputed kings of mellifluous horseshit. Their singles are joyously happy and catchy; they are underwritten by an unshakeable sing-a-long quality; and they are deeply stupid. When happily singing along to a Train song alone in the car you will inevitably come to that moment of consciousness when you realize what you are actually singing and you’ll think, “Jesus, what is this shit?” I had that moment today while singing the chorus to their new single “Drive By.”
“Oh I swear to ya/I’ll be there for ya/This is not a drive by-y-y-y-y/Just a shy guy/looking for a two-ply/Hefty bag to hold my-y-y-y-y-y-y love.” There it is in all its silliness. The first three phrases make sense. They prepare the explanation for why the protagonist of the song vanished after the one night he spent with the object of his desire. Then it gets baffling. I’m shy, he claims, and I need a container for all of this love. Huh? How does it follow from your shyness that you won’t see someone until you have the right container for the love you feel? Frankly, this is the kind of crap you tell someone you never intend to see again after your one night stand: “really, baby, I love you too much to ruin what just happened by seeing you again.” But it’s the metaphor itself more than its lack of logic that is appalling. I think that name-brand, two-ply garbage bags don’t belong in romantic art, and I doubt that this will become a common metaphor for explaining the depth of one’s love. These guys have a history of choosing strangely banal figures for illustrating love. In “Drops of Jupiter” the singer asks his loved one to imagine the delights that await their romance. He sings: “Can you imagine no/First dance, freeze-dried romance/Five hour conversation/The best soy latte that you ever had/and me.” The best soy latte, for reals? These guys must write songs like Brick Tamland talks about love: just mention the first thing you see. I love lamp!
To be fair to Train, however, nowhere does it say in the popular music handbook that pop songs are supposed to make sense or not sound stupid. If that were the case, considerably less music would exist. Even a perfect song like Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock,” for example, is mostly free-association gibberish. The Stooges’ “No Fun” is a self-aware exploration into the sense of self of someone who does very little thinking beyond their own immediate sensations and desires. That is, it’s a song about a dummy. Lastly, there are song like The Cramps’ “Human Fly” (which begins with these extraordinary verses: “Well I’m a human fly/I-I spell f-l-y/I-I say buzz, buzz, buzz/and it’s just because”) that make it impossible for the listener to decide whether they are stupid songs or songs about stupidity. In short, pop music has always had plenty of room for idiots.