RIYL: Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Magnetic Fields
By all rights, the Trashcan Sinatras should have broken up years ago. Only one of their five albums was met with good timing, and that was their 1990 debut Cake. From there, they have suffered a relentless tide of apathy, both from the public (their album I’ve Seen Everything landed while grunge was in full swing) and even label bosses (Go! Discs didn’t bother releasing 1996’s A Happy Pocket in the States). But Kilmarnock’s finest have soldiered on, staring down bankruptcy and the inevitable pressures of family life to do what they love. And for that, they have attracted one of the most loyal fan bases any band has ever known. As our Popdose colleague John Hughes once wryly observed, there is no such thing as a casual fan of the Trashcan Sinatras.
Even their most recent album, In the Music, has its share of melodrama. The album was originally supposed to come out last fall, but the distribution deal fell through just as they were embarking on their first US tour in five years. But the album is finally out, and in fact its release snuck up on us, which doesn’t bode well for the promotional efforts being done on its behalf. (Seriously, we get close to 50 music press releases a day, but no one’s working the Trashcan Sinatras?) Looks like, as guitarist Paul Livingston pointed out in an interview last summer, that they’ll be selling their records to the same people once again.
Pity, because they’ve just made another gem. In the Music is similar in tone to the band’s 2004 album Weightlifting, in that both are quite mannered in comparison to their earlier work (which in itself was not exactly raucous to begin with). Fans of the “How Can I Apply…” mode of the band’s work will find much to love here, particularly “Easy on the Eye” and “Oranges & Apples,” the band’s tribute to Syd Barrett and their first song to top the seven-minute mark. They even got Carly Simon to sing on the ballad “Should I Pray.” The most rocking moment here is “Prisons,” which is chock full of the vintage Trashcans jangly guitar riffs, and “Morning Star” sports the most widescreen chorus the band’s written in years.
If the album is missing anything – besides promotional support, that is – it’s a few shifts in tempo. Yes, it’s all gorgeous, but anyone longing for a “Bloodrush” or “Welcome Back,” or even another “Hayfever,” will be left wanting. In other words, as much as the band wants people outside of their existing fan base to buy their albums, In the Music is probably not going to do the trick. It’s perfectly lovely, but it’s also preaching to the converted. Still, better that than not preaching at all. (Lo-Five Records 2010)