Here’s an early article from the NME music magazine with the Trashcans giving their fellow Scots a bit of a ‘kicking.’
It’s a lengthy article, but it’s a damn good read…
Professional Scotsmen be damned (or binned), Go! Discs’ TRASHCAN SINATRAS are Frankly embarrassed by their Caledonian competitors. ANDY ‘Stuart’ COLLINS grants them outlaw status for their anti-nationalist, Houseless stance. Canny camera: TIM JARVIS.
The year is 1992. The revolution is over. Following a recently collapsed economy/property slump in the South East, and a mass exodus to the North, the promise of a separate Scottish Parliament from the caring, sharing Labour Government has prompted a full-scale Latvia-style uprising from the Scottish people.
They took to the streets, deposed all London cabaret performers from the Edinburgh Festival, and elected Muriel Gray to be their new leader.
Today, as the construction of the new wall from Gretna Green to Berwick On Tweed gets underway, the Pop Stars of Free Scotland hold an emotional ‘Big Day’ on Glasgow Green. Ricky Ross out of Deacon Blue makes an impassioned opening speech, heralding a new dawn of independent Scottishness, the reintroduction of rolled ‘r’s into the language, denim to replace tartan, and, most importantly, a new Scottish National Anthem. Marti Pellow, The Proclaimer, Fish, Pat Kane, Texas and The Krankies join Ricky onstage for a massed, flag-waving rendition of the new anthem: “I am sailing/I am sa-a-a-ay-ling/’cross the water/To be freeeee”…
And then The Trashcan Sinatras woke up. Phew. It was all just a bad dream.
There are Scottish Bands, and there are bands from Scotland. On the one hand, you’ve got the Rickys and the Martis and the Craigs and the Charlies – the professional Scots, the sons of Andy Stuart who’ve taken the high road to success – and on the other, you’ve got The Trashcan Sinatras. Five boys from Irvine on Scotland’s west coast, who’s nationality is a mere accident of birth; an inconvenience; something they’re ever keen to shake off.
“Have you ever heard the Proclaimers talk?” exclaims guitarist John Douglas (26) from behind a pint of ‘heavy’. He shakes his head. “They only sing Scottish in songs! It’s so embarrassing! It’s a total lie. It sounds as if they’ve sat down and studied it. What was their hit called? ‘Letter From America’?”
John breaks into song. “Nooooo mooowrre! Nooooo mooowrrr-ahh!”
Other guitarist Paul Livingston (19) joins in. “Irvine noooowmooooowrrrrr-ahhh! – that’s their gimmick!”
The three of us are running up a tab in a smart hotel bar on the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow. It’s the city of culture this year, as you know, which explains why there’s a life size helicopter made from green paper leaves suspended from a crane outside the window. That’s culture!
Commercially speaking, The Trashcans don’t have a gimmick. Unless sounding like Aztec Camera is a gimmick. You see, The Trashcans do sound a bit like Aztec Camera, and there’s no point in trying to skirt round the fact or make excuses for them.
They play sweet, structured, intelligently-worded guitar music with a plaintive flourish and an acoustic spring in its step. Which is fine, since The Trashcans differ from Aztec Camera on two important counts – one – they are a group, not the fleshed-out vision of one inspired songwriter – and two – they are playing that sweet, plaintive guitar music in 1990. And Aztec Camera stopped in about 1986.
“I don’t like Aztec Camera,” confesses Paul, exclusively, “I’ve tried my very best.”
John likes them. In fact, when pushed, he lists them among the only five good Scottish bands ever, alongside the Cocteau Twins (“Nobody thinks of them as a Scottish band”). Nyah Fearties, The Close Lobsters and Alex Harvey.
Nobody perceived Aztec Camera as a Scottish band either, I suggest.
“Ah!” corrects John, “It depends where you lived. I lived here and they were there. You should live in Scotland for six months. Have you ever seen the Scottish press when it comes to the football team? Pre-Argentina Daily Record? No self-criticism whatsoever! Everyone’s brilliant that comes from Scotland!”
“Every week on Radio Clyde there’s the best new band ever!” continues Paul, “I can’t understand why Wet Wet Wet play to it as much as they do. They were on telly, singing a song about the Clyde, and they were all looking out on the river, singing “Oohhh my grand-dad worked on the Clyde“. Fuck! Lloyd Cole was Scottish for a living – he’s not Scottish but he moved to Glasgow because it was the cool place to be. Nutter!
“There was a Wet Wet Wet interview on telly, and the interviewer asked Marti a question about lyrics, and Marti just leaned forward with a totally serious face, saying ‘And the the big guns started shooting with the bullets of deception’. He sat back, satisfied, as if to say ‘There’s a fucking lyric for you’.”
“You know that if you met these people in a pub on a Saturday night and they weren’t in a band they’d be just fucking scum. They’d probably kick your head in.”
“Jim Kerr’s on Live Aid and he says ‘This is a song called ‘Dooon’t You Forgey-at Abooot Mee’ – and I’m thinking that’s not Scottish! I’ve never talked like that in my life!”
WET WET Wet once wished that they were lucky. The Trashcans had no such wish. Ask them why they’re in a band and you’ll get the answer, “It’s a total accident. You just muck about at school and then you’re in a band!”
In 1988, they were just a crap covers band (they even did Sinatra covers!) working for beer at discos, an amorphous collective of pals who became permanent when Paul and John and singer Frank Read (23) started to ‘work up’ something approaching an original set. George McDaid (23) and Stephen Douglas (20) supplemented the team on bass and drums, and a demo tape ensued. In an authentic but ill-planned bid for recognition, Frank and Paul went to London to play the tape to some record companies. “You don’t have that killer song!” went the A&R men, so they went back to Irvine and beer-money.
It was only when a ‘friend’ of Go! Discs happened to catch them supporting The Lilac Time in Dundee that the wheels of industry groaned into motion.
On the ‘killer’ debut single ‘Obscurity Knocks’, John Leckie’s remixed addition added a certain je ne sais quoi bite to the sound, and, instead of just melancholy – which The Trashcans do so well – there is a clenched credibility to it. ‘Obscurity’ came out in March this year, was voted NME Single Of The Week, and, for some, remains Single Of The Year So Far.
The more businesslike follow-up ‘Only Tongue Can Tell’ miraculously ‘grazed’ the Top 50 in May, and now, you can have their ‘Cake’ and you can’t beat it.
It’s very much an overspill from all the best (English) guitar bands of the 80’s – The Smiths, Aztec Camera, The Housemartins, and even the ill-fated La’s – none of whom are working anymore. One question instantly arises from listening to it – why is there no sign of a dance influence? Not a single, sampled smidgin? Don’t this band listen to House music in their spare time?
“Not the no-tune stuff!” they cry, in unison. “It’s just easier to sit in the studio and work something out on a guitar. You cannae beat a Rickenbacker!”
EARLIER IN the evening, I watched in wonder as The Trashcans whipped up a small storm in a pokey old upstairs-downstairs bar called King Tut’s. Before a 300-strong audience, they loved their guitars and teetered on the brink of oblivion. It was a rare old treat; 45 minutes of top entertainment that actually made the idea of Adamski seem all the more uncomfortable and wrong. I came up here to catch this band before they ‘break’ and I think I was just in time. Frank Read – although pathologically averse to the interview situation – is a fine, upstanding front man – lantern-jawed and not a little mental onstage, a cross between Ian Curtis and PC Rod Corkhill. When he actually smashed up the drum kit during and encore of bedroom-angst chestnut ‘Ace Of Spades’ I thought maybe I was in rock ‘n’ roll Heaven! Now that’s what I call culture.
As it stands, The Trashcan Sinatras are a magical, unspoiled, steadfast outfit with a nice line in anti-nationalism that should guarantee them outlaw status at ‘Big Days’ for life. Scot free, if you like. But one line from ‘Obscurity Knocks’ rings in my ears, a premonition to which these wee boys should take heed, since there’s a Ricky Ross in us all.
“These days I’m better placed to get my just rewards/I’ll pound out a tune and very soon/I’ll have too much to say and a dead stupid name.“
23 June 1990 NME Magazine
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