The Train of Thought – City of Fire

The Train of Thought
City of Fire

This trio is difficult to pin down. Their influences are varied and their output is reminiscent of bands like Jawbreaker, yet features a minor-chord doom perhaps stemming from some of the member’s days as if in a Misfits cover band. This darker side of their sound reminds me of a sped-up version of the band Quicksand or Stompbox with different vocals. I would really like to hear them live, as they put forth strong individual performances but utilize guitar and vocal overdubs to achieve a thicker sound on record. This production kind of muddies the synergy that takes place between the members and creates an overly homogenous mix in which it is difficult to tease out or even hear the idiosyncrasies of each individual’s style and how they each complement each other. Tre Beaton’s bass playing is eclectic, moving one minute from a pummeling punk tone to a liquid elastic funk in the next. The opening phrase of the bridge in “City of Fire” is particularly interesting as he draws out droning harmonics and multiphonics out of the instrument. Unfortunately, his vocals are kind of trapped in the production as they are doubled by the stereo assault of guitars.

“City of Fire” shows that The Train of Thought are not a traditional power trio using the space provided by the small number of musicians to go off on extended solo adventures. Instead, the band narrows these gaps by tightening ranks and rarely playing harmonies, polyrhythms, or any kind of counterpoint. The contrasts we might expect from such a small and diverse group of musicians are for the most part absent – except for the occasional break during which the band is able to breathe a little before starting off into a new section. There is little variety of time, texture, or dynamics, and the color changes are broad and incidental rather than immediate and pointed. It is difficult to see much depth in the band by listening to just one song – perhaps their overall output is more versatile. While intriguing, “City of Fire” fails to capture more than an instinctual inkling of the potential that these three members bring to bear. Having listened to this track and read their bios, I am still left cold by The Train of Thought; however, there is an element of mystery about them suggesting rewards hidden until one delves deeper into their output.