Music » Livewire

Steel Train

With Limbeck, Piebald, and the Format. Wednesday, August 29, at the Agora Theater.

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In the late '90s, Steel Train started out as a duo of subway buskers in New York. But vocalist Scott Irby-Ranniar and guitarist-singer Jack Antonoff eventually enlisted a rhythm section. This transformed Steel Train into a full unit, specializing in back-porch acoustica, touches of classic rock, and the occasional jam-out when the group plays live.

1969, Steel Train's second EP for the emo imprint Drive-Thru Records, is a collection of covers from that year: six songs that, although impeccably arranged, really sound as if they were made by post-punk brats who've never even listened to FM radio. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. The disc's top-to-bottom pleasance ensures that listening is no chore, even when Irby-Ranniar adopts a faux-Jamaican accent for a Bob Marley cover.

Steel Train kicks off its debut full-length, 2005's Twilight Tales From the Prairies of the Sun, with a series of songs about Antonoff's failed relationship with mega-babe Scarlett Johansson. Now say what you want about the tastelessness of such a kiss-and-tell move, but let's face it, if you bedded Miss Johansson, you'd want everybody to know. You gotta shout that kind of shit from the rooftops.

In the end, Steel Train emits a vibe so easy, it's difficult to diss the group for being such saps. It's like putting down "Mother and Child Reunion" by Paul Simon, a song these guys really should cover.

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