Ken Tucker
June 06, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

My Private Nation

Current Status
In Season

We gave it a B+

Straightforward rockers Train commence their journey through My Private Nation with the album’s first single, ”Calling All Angels,” an anthemic hymn to commitment (”I won’t give up if you don’t give up”) that builds steadily to a gloriously clanging climax. The song encapsulates everything that’s good about this band — its bigheartedness and irony-free ardor; the open-throated singing by Pat Monahan, and the way Scott Underwood’s drumming pushes along any melody that threatens to become stalled in its own prettiness.

There’s a surface attractiveness to many of the songs here, such as ”Save the Day” and ”All American Girl,” that rewards closer listening. So do the band’s amusingly self-deprecating lyrics, such as the moment on the aforementioned ”Girl” when Monahan boasts he’s ”got dance moves like Patrick Swayze.” ”Nation,” the quartet’s fourth and best collection, is produced by Brendan O’Brien, who recently showcased Bruce Springsteen’s throaty complexity on ”The Rising.” O’Brien does the opposite for Monahan, stripping away much of the surrounding guitar work to allow the singer’s high, clear voice to keen piercingly. If it wouldn’t be misinterpreted as a slight, I’d say this was the best REO Speedwagon album ever made.

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