Occasional ballad aside, Exile Tribe’s Fantastics have had one of the strongest singles runs in years. Songs like Stop For Nothing, High Fever, Drive Me Crazy and Summer Bike still get tons of plays from me, and I’ve recently made it my mission to get to know the group better. It turns out the members are as delightful as their music. With all this goodwill buoying their sails, I was a bit disappointed to learn that their next single would be a cover of the 90’s classic Choo Choo Train.
Originally performed by dance group ZOO, the track is a J-pop standard – covered plenty of times over the years. It’s especially meaningful to Exile Tribe, as ZOO member Hiroyuki Igarashi founded Exile and made Choo Choo Train a staple of their live performances. The song has a ton of history and is almost fodder for an easy hit. But, I’m more eager to see Fantastics continue with their incredible run of original material.
With that said, the group pulls off Choo Choo Train with flair. They retain its 90’s sound, injecting a touch of city pop grooves into the mix. Vocalists Sota and Yusei do a particularly fine job, accentuating every curve in the melody to imbue the track with plenty of feeling. They’ve never sounded better. Otherwise, this cover is remarkably faithful to the original. If anything, it’s slightly more subdued and adult-contemporary. When it comes down to it, there’s just not much you can do to change a standard like this. Its charms are already baked in, which makes it all the more important to be familiar with the individual strengths of the Fantastics members themselves.