Album Review: The Train Set – Never California

In my day,that day being back in the late 80s and early 90s, the home made compilation cassette was the calling card of the young man about town. From subtle messages contained within for potential partners, to an assert action to a new acquaintance that your musical taste marked you out as a person it was worth spending time with.

There were some songs that were permanent fixtures on these compilation cassettes (well, mine, anyway) and inbetween Smtihs, Cure, Felt and Jesus and Mary Chain staples was always hidden gems from the footnotes of NME and Sounds – Bob, The Field Mice,Bradford, and always, always ‘Harped on about you’ by the Train Set.

This joyous slice of indie pop, Full of infectious tunes and this delicious folk stomp, complete with violin riff at the beginning was a thing of late summer afternoons in pubs, or sitting on walls with ice cream, or at the very least something to fall in love with, or even to. Quite something for a relatively

However it wasn’t to be, and instead The Train Set disappeared with only a couple of 12″s as evidence of their existence, although debut debut She’s Gone had made NME Single of the week on its result. And that would be the end of the story, if The Train Set weren’t so good. Name checked by Noel Gallagher, Firestation records has gathered together the tracks from those two EPs along with some unreleased material under the title of Never California, to give the world another chance to discover and appreciate the band.

It turns out, according to the press releases that The Train Set emerged from the Crewe/Winsford scene, the core of the band Clive Jones (vocals), Andy Boote (guitars) and Mark Shaw (Bass) met at school, recruiting Adam Halford (drums) from Winsford and keys player Dave Hassall from Chester. Managed by Happy Mondays managed Nathan McGough (briefly) the band signed to DJ Dave Haslams Play Hard label, and toured with the likes of the Mondays, James and others.

Listening to the twelve track album, there’s lots to enjoy – elements of The Smiths and indeed James sit alongside their folk-punk roots, while the band had an ear for a melody, albeit wrapped up in wonky guitars and driving percussion. The album starts with the two title tracks, and they don’t come across (unlike a lot of things from that era) as heavily dated. The first of the ‘new’ tracks, Stop Stalling (Sob Stories) again has something of the Marr about the accompaniment, while it smacks of a band cut off before they’d ever got started. Deliciously catchy, it has all the signposts of Peel filler about it.

Two of the b-sides follow, the piano led All Blown Over showing a sprinkle of (piano led, at least at the beginning) emotion, while the guitar work on Untouchable sparkles as it cascades over the chorus (You are untouchable, Jones agrees). From there, it fits the bill – late 80s early 90s enjoyable, melodic indie pop. Gets me Down is frankly a dose of James-like joyous pop, while Tell Uslooks froward to the baggy shuffle.

And there – hiding at track 7 it is. Harped on about You. I think I danced a little bit around the kitchen when it came on. And trust me, that never happens. Maybe I need to start making compilation tapes again.

Never California is out via Firestation Records on September 7th.

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