As I pulled into the city to the Glamour Kills Holiday Festival last weekend, I turned to my friend and said “I basically paid $29.50 only for The Wonder Years,” but I was only half-joking; at 8 PM I decided to go watch Transit. I hadn’t even finished making my way into the crowd when I heard Transit start playing the title track off of 2011’s Listen & Forgive. I completely lost it and rushed my way in because I was immediately reminded exactly why I fell in love with the band. Like a lot of people, I dismissed the release of Young New England last year before the bad reviews could even come pouring in, but when Transit played the new Joyride songs so fittingly live last week, I thought I should actually buy this one – so I did.
“The Only One” opens with strong drumming and has that familiar touch of Transit groove. It is very poppy and repetitive, but it is so easy to love. “Saturday Sunday” comes right after and it’s more repetitive than the former. I would even call it a filler if I had not so shamelessly sang along to it live. Before I even got into the next songs, I already had a general sense of how the rest of the songs were going to be like. Poppy, light and with a hint of cheese. “Rest to Get Better” and “Sweet Resistance” proved that prediction; however, with those two, Joyride finally starts to gain some weight. Both songs are just as feel good as “Saturday Sunday,” but they actually seem to be about something.
That problem is high-lighted in “Nothing Left to Lose,” a track that I know you could play at a friend’s backyard party and no one would ask you why you are not playing J. Cole’s new album instead. Yes, the music is feel good and more along the lines of Listen and Forgive, but what else is there to it? Why does this album matter?
Inferring from the title, this album was never meant to be received as anything more than fun and light. With that, Transit has delivered. Despite that and the fact that Transit has never been particularly strong lyricists, the band previously evoked so much out of just that one “I just wish you would have called” line in “Long Lost Friends” off Listen & Forgive. Hell, even the Young New England title track’s hook (“Boston never drinks alone”) has more heart than a lot of songs on Joyride.
“Ignition and Friction” seems to correct this problem underlined by the previous songs. It still has a really catchy hook, but seems to have a little more old Transit heart in it; however, then we go into the next two, “Fine by Me” – which is barely saved by its catchy chorus – and “Loneliness Burns,” which is so generic and cringe worthy that not even the piano intro could save it. The persistent problem with tracks like the latter then is not that Transit has gone more pop, as you can still make good pop-rock songs and be respected. The problem is that some of these songs, though enjoyable, come off as more contrived than natural. For example, “Summer Dust” and “Pins and Needles” – the growers that follow after – are still each tirelessly just another Joyride song saved by a catchy chorus.
“Too Little, Too Late” is sandwiched between the previous songs and, despite being a bit cheesy, it finally took more than mild emotion out of me. Yet it is the closing track, “Follow Me,” that finally evokes something strong. Just when I was getting tired of listening to Transit save mediocre songs with catchy choruses, I came to realize that the best was saved for last. The intro is sweet, but it is everything that comes after the 1:36 mark that really impresses. The song is still definitely very fitting of Joyride, but it feels far more emotionally provoking than any other on the album. The music and lyrics finally sync up to tell a story and it matters. It was also the track that saved this album for me.
Last Sunday, half the crowd left to go watch Man Overboard as the remaining Transit fans squeezed up to the front. Transit closed with “Skipping Stone” and more heart was given in that last old song than the remainder of the set. Joe Boynton was so high off the crowd afterwards that he stayed on stage to try to give everyone that extended their hand forward a high five. You want that Transit you saw close the stage last week and you want to give that heart back to them at the next show.
Music does not have to be a strong visceral release all the time. Sometimes all music needs to be is catchy and empty, especially when all you’re trying to do is get drunk in someone’s backyard. Joyride definitely succeeds in giving that light summer anthem feeling, but what are we as fans if the only thing we push the bands we love for is to keep writing catchier hooks?