[sic] Magazine

Trashcan Sinatras – I’ve Seen Everything

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Is it the trick lyrics?
Is it the harmonies?
Is it those heartbreaker melodies?

Trashcan Sinatras formed in Irvine, Scotland during 1986. Theirs is a gentle, wistful pop, far more emotionally impactful than many of the ‘power & volume’ acts of the day. So-called because a girlfriend at an early rehearsal deemed them to be “like Sinatra with dustbins…” et voila, the Trash Can Sinatras were born. (Now I may be technically off here but to me Trashcan Sinatras feels so much better than (The) Trash Can Sinatras so if you’ll permit me, we’ll stick with my preferred Trashcan Sinatras for these purposes)

I wish I’d elevated I’ve Seen Everything to ‘Classic’ status on Day One of [sic]. I probably haven’t for the very simple reason that my words don’t really seem to do justice to the many levels that this record succeeds upon. Yes, musically it is consistently lovely. Lyrically the content is all there. It ticks every box and yet I still feel an overwhelming inadequacy over writing about this album. Trashcan Sinatras touch me in deeper ways than most bands. They stir all manner of emotions, nostalgia, tenderness, love, sadness and reverie. They’re a ‘me’ band.

In literature, tragedy and comedy are very closely related. So too in the world of Trashcan Sinatras. Few acts are able switch sentiments whilst maintaining a balance between the two. I’m thinking Crowded House, Prefab Sprout, Shack and, The Divine Comedy. If these are Trashcan Sinatras peers, then it starts to become a lot more obvious why we think of them in ‘Hall of Fame’ terms.

Part of their wonder lies with the fact that like many great acts they never really fitted into any real niche or scene. I suppose the early, Cake era; Trashcans might have been associated with the ‘jangly’ bands of late 80’s? (Wedding Present etc) There is certainly a nod to Postcard but they were too polished to be C86 and, never over-reliant on fx, they gave both Shoegaze and Grunge the swerve. Whether they realized it or not at the time the groups’ third album, A Happy Pocket, was probably a lost Britpop classic with its nods to Kinks, Lulu and the Stones. The critics never noticed and subsequently neither did the greater buying public. A pity as it out-blurred Albarn and Co rather deftly.

If you let the Trashcans into your life then it’s a given you’ll also let singer Frank Reader into your heart. Comparisons with Morrissey were practically unavoidable, given The Smiths status at the time and Readers equally intelligent, playful style. Vocally, I would put him closer to a gentler Roddy Frame. Certainly the wordplay and humour do rival Morrissey’s best work but Reader’s wit is far more self-depreciating and all the more charming for it. I always felt that we watched and admired Morrissey from afar. Frank Readers world is much more inclusive than Moz’s. OurOur Frank’s issues resonate on a much deeper level because they’re our issues.

I’ve Seen Everything was the bands second album. Surprisingly for something made by five blokes it feels very feminine – soft, touching and heartfelt. The albums only loud moment comes with ‘One at a time’ which is an ironic piss-take of machismo anyway. The album has a beguiling sequencing that somehow just works. This may simply be because there are no poor tracks whatsoever on the whole record. How many records in your collection can boast that? Now add one more.

As hinted a the beginning of this piece, no single element, not even Frank Reader, explains why the Trashcans or I’ve Seen Everything are so vital. It’s the band. It’s the chemistry. It’s the way it all comes together. This is a warm, floaty daydream of a record. Readers lyrics on the printed page don’t immediately strike out, great though they are. It’s the way they are sung that makes a huge difference and the way those harmonics are accompanied. You have to hear it. Something like ‘Orange Fell’ is so utterly gorgeous. I’ve no doubt that Frank Reader singing the Phone Book would be a thing of loveliness itself but here, within Trashcan Sinatras, singing Frank Reader words… ahhh. People, you really owe me one for this.

What else? ‘Hayfever’ suffered the ignominy of being taunted by Beavis and Butthead. A kind of inverted compliment really. The hilarious ‘I’m Immortal’ contains the albums most quotable work:

“I took a kick in the confidence
Down in the tackle I hurt
I took a shine to your big size tens
Now all around the subject I skirt
Gingerly….”

If you’re asking for favourites then ‘Send For Henny’ is never too far away. Have you ever heard guitars sound quite so lovely? The trail-out track ‘Earlies’ is also a lump-in-throat, nostalgia trip. If this band can’t break your heart, it must already be broken.

The Trashcan story is a bittersweet one. Sad in the respect that they have had to endure all manner of setback, bankruptcy, and the usual ‘critically acclaimed yet generally overlooked’ syndrome that dogs today’s results-based industry. Yet happy in so far as despite all the crap, Trashcan Sinatras are still here. In a career that spans twenty years, they have kept faith with their art and seem a very settled group of men with minimal changes to the lineup. All their albums are excellent but if any record was deserving of today’s deluxe re-issue treatment then it has to be I’ve Seen Everything. The good news is that I believe it is being discussed/planned along with Cake and A Happy Pocket. (Weighlifting is probably too recent)

“Believe in everything
We’re leaving everything”

Trashcan Sinatras have a new album out now, their fifth, entitled In The Music. Something pretty much wonderful.

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