Another very welcome and interesting contribution today, this time courtesy of rhetor (not his/her real name!!), a resident of Toronto where I spent a very happy four months working on a a secondment back in 2007.
It’s not rhetor’s first contribution to the blog as they explain in this really lovely covering e-mail:-
I am a bit of a long time reader and fan of your blog, and have for many years enjoyed opening every evening’s new column and perusing its song sample. It is a delight, as a Torontonian, to see your unique far-off yet near to home perspective on the musical taste we all too often seem to share. And though you probably do not recall, I have even left the occasional comment or two, entered one of your contests (the draw for Morrissey’s Swords), and even contributed briefly a song and write-up that featured when you were away in Ireland after the death of your brother (the Beloved’s song “Found” from the album “Happiness”).
Actually, as an unhappy anecdote, I must say that I once penned a whole column to contribute to a series you featured a long time ago, where readers wrote about “ten random songs from their iPod shuffle” and what they meant to them, but sadly, just as I clicked send, the laptop froze and I lost everything! I was so disheartened that it took quite the long time, though tempted often, to get around to trying another entry for your consideration and possible inclusion in a series.
I als feel that it is a bit cheeky of me to contribute an entry to your Imaginary Album’s series for The Trashcan Sinatras, as I know that you are indeed a fan too, but also that others in your ken (such as Colin from Fivehungryjoes) are also super-fans, but as I saw that no one had yet tried this exercise of creating the definitive TCS album, and that the long-awaited sixth TCS album is being born in just a month or two, so it would be an ideal time for a bit of a retrospective. So, feel free to include, if you think it might fit, or not, if it is not quite what you see fitting in. But I do need to say that I love your daily entries, and you must promise never to stop writing, as you can see how much you mean to readers even far-off across the proverbial pond.
So without any futher ado:-
For those not aware, the Trashcan Sinatras (formerly known as The Trash Can Sinatras) are soon to release (in September) their sixth studio album, which those who wish to support, I believe, can still do through the group’s Pledge Music campaign. An ideal time, then, to do a bit of a retrospective of the band in anticipation of the coming but long-awaited treat.
Track 1: Obscurity Knocks (from the album the album Cake)
As the opening track for the band’s debut album, and the debut single released prior to the album that introduced the band to the world, this is the obvious choice for album opener.
Yes, I say world, because the song did very well not only at home in the band’s hometown of Irvine and environs, but also in the USA college radio circuits, and in my native city of Toronto, Canada, thanks to decently heavy airplay on my then-favourite and must-listen radio station CFNY, and the support of the very thoughtful and influential DJ Alan Cross (if you are not familiar with him in other parts of the world, fans of The Vinyl Villain and his musical tastes may well be interested in googling Alan Cross’s name to find the podcasts of his lengthy series The Ongoing History of New Music).
The pun-filled humility of the title is a hallmark of the band that has not left them to this day, despite the fact that this single may have proved a bit more prophetic than the band would have liked…
Track 2: Earlies (from the album the album I’ve Seen Everything)
The band’s musical and song-writing depth is evident in the fact that this early gem is sung by guitarist John Douglas, not the fabulous lead vocalist Frank Reader. And so many lovely covers of this song have sprung up, including (of course) by Eddi Reader (Frank’s sister and John Douglas’ wife) and more recently by Lotte Kestner. Fine, evocative storytelling here…
Track 3: Oranges and Apples (from the album In the Music)
Not to be confused with Pink Floyd’s 1967 song “Apples and Oranges”, this is nonetheless a tribute from the band to the influential and poetic Syd Barrett, with some of the band’s best dreamy-sounding guitar work, and a return on their most recent album to the delightfully playful lyrics that were a hallmark of the earliest albums…Yes, it’s almost 7 minutes long, but hey, boy, you ain’t heard nothing till you heard it live where it just gets longer and longer…
Track 4: The Sleeping Policeman (from the album A Happy Pocket)
Who else could write a song with a title alluding to a traffic-slowing barrier that then turns out to be ostensibly about North Sea fishing trawlers bringing home their catch, but in fact is more profoundly, as the lyrics tell, about “life and death”?
Track 5: Trouble Sleeping (from the album Weightlifting)
For me, this is the eerie heart of the Weightlifting album. A gentle and beautiful sound, but just under the surface the lyrics tell the story of grisly unsolved murders that took place near the bands hometown…
Track 6: All the Dark Horses (from the album Weightlifting)
This is the beautiful track that really makes the Weightlifting album (the band’s long-awaited “Comeback Album” after the bankruptcy that followed the collapse of Go! Discs and the end of their recording deal.
It has been used as a TV soundtrack leader on American TV, remixed into a club song and made available through the band’s website, covered by adoring TCS tribute bands, and even released in two versions on the Weightlifting deluxe album (acoustic as well as the radio single version)…but of course nothing beats the original…
Track 7: The Safecracker (from the album A Happy Pocket)
I think many, many fans would have this on their list.
The opening lines, “As fly to tarantula, as jugular to Dracula/ to me in my ford spectacular, you’ll be drawn…” give a feel for what the rest of the Happy Pocket album is like: a highly literate, but tongue-firmly-in-cheek ironic look at a variety of odd characters and personages both real (of the band’s ken) and very hopefully imaginary.
Track 8: The Hairy Years (from the album I’ve Seen Everything)
Again, this is a song that is not likely to have made the cut of every TCS fan out there, but is a personal favourite that just had to make the cut.
I had originally bought the band’s first album, Cake, as a whim upon seeing it in the music shop, as it had a sticker that claimed it was Scotland’s answer to The Smiths (?!) and as it was on the Go! Discs label that was a home for my other current favourites The La’s, Billy Bragg, The Housemartins, and The Beautiful South. I figured I could trust a label that was perspicacious enough to snap up such a collection of great artists, and it turned out to be a wise decision as I loved the album on first hearing, though I really never heard much of The Smiths in their sound.
By the time the second album, ISE, was released I bought it the first day, and was equally impressed on first hearing, though by no track more immediately than The Hairy Years, which seemed to me to be so delicate in the beauty of its harmonies and child-like simplicity of lyrics that covered over some mysteriously dark content, that I recall being afraid to listen to the album too many times, for fear that the first impression would wear out and I might tire of that first feeling…Of course, I never did.
Track 9: The Best Man’s Fall (from the album Cake)
No more need be said to convert casual friends to TCS fans than to quote a few selections of their lyrics. And there are few better or more frequently quoted than these (and looking at them, no wonder that plenty of fine bands overtly cite the Trashcan Sinatras and their lyrics as major influences, not least of which include The Lucksmiths (featured here recently) and the popular and rising Canadian indie band Stars).
could i interest you in a little something special
pay the earth but if you have no money
your attention’ll do
and if you don’t give a damn
you’re welcome to keep it…
the hands of the clock give me a round of applause
for getting out of bed and the scars of the night before
have turned into scabs and still I’m seeing double
and i’m looking twice my age
it’s getting to the stage where
i’m old, not wise, just worried
and stories of rags to riches leave me in stitches
and with a thread that’s hard to follow
you came into my life like a brick through a window
and i cracked a smile
Track 10: Mr. Grisly (the acoustic version taken from the band’s self-produced Radio Sessions: Volume 1 rather than the original b-side from the single for Twisted and Bent):
Another song that is not every fan’s favourite necessarily, and only ever saw light of day as a b-side, but happens to be my own personal TCS #1, so here it is.
I was a genuine life-time highlight when they agreed to play it live in concert at my request, at a small venue in Toronto in 2011 as part of their “all- request private house party” concert series.
Hidden Bonus: Astronomy (acoustic version taken from the band’s self-produced Radio Sessions: Volume 1, rather than the original Japanese-only bonus track from the Weightlifting album).
The beauty speaks for itself, and makes a very lovely surprise closer for this Imaginary Album…
Hayfever: This was the band’s second highest charting single, reaching the dizzying heights of #11 on the U.S. Modern Rock charts and a fine pop song it is too. The music video was reviewed somewhat favourably by Beavis and Butthead back in the day, despite their predictable juvenile mocking of the band’s accents!
Ghosts of American Astronauts: As TCS began their career back in the mid-to-late ‘80’s as a covers band, it would have been nice to find space for this gem (a cover of a Mekons song which was never released but made its way to the very scarce CD Zebra of the Family, which the band released as a way to both clear their recording studio closets of some gems and skeletons that somehow never saw the light of day, as well as to raise some much needed funds to help record their fourth album, Weightlifting, after the awful spectre of bankruptcy followed the collapse of their record label, Go! Discs, and the end of their recording deal.
Drunken Chorus: A true gem, and proof of the strength of the band’s depth of songwriting that this only made it as a b-side, or as one of six bonus tracks for the Cake album if you happen to live in Japan. As I indicated above, some of the very best Trashcan songs appear buried on the backs of singles releases! This is the one that the rowdy drunk guy at the back of the concert hall always shouts out for, and sometimes gets…
Wild Mountainside: A lovely ballad about the geography of their home country of Scotland, and one of the better known songs by the band, as it has been covered by John Douglas’ wife Eddi Reader and performed before royalty…
And now, having finished, I feel that all of the other TCS fans out there will begin the howls about what I left out, but let me say, as all of the others who have contributed have said before, that this is an outrageously difficult thing to do, to reduce a band that you love to one album of ten songs, and having come out from the grueling experience, I can only answer the critics by quoting from the delightful lyrics of the TCS song I’m Immortal:-
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, gingerly…
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Earlies
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Oranges and Apples
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Sleeping Policeman
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Trouble Sleeping
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – All The Dark Horses
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Safecracker
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Hairy Years
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – The Best Man’s Fall
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Mr Grisly (acoustic)
mp3 : Trashcan Sinatras – Astronomy (acoustic)