Five Hungry Joes – A pictorial archive of the Trashcan Sinatras. Legendary Scottish Band


There’s More To It…
January 18, 2010, 8:00 pm
Filed under: Press | Tags: , , , ,

…in this article from the Melody Maker.

Read all about it…

DAVE JENNINGS meets the Scottish band who hope to twist pop into new and exciting shapes with their debut album ‘Cake’.

“LOOK, YOU LIVE ON THE WEST COAST OF Scotland for 26 years, then write an album and see what it sounds like!”

John Douglas of The Trash Can Sinatras is responding sharply to the suggestion that “Cake”, his band’s debut album, is a gloomy affair. He knows the description is accurate, but he also knows there’s more to it than that. The Sinatras acknowledge that their Scottish smalltown background is reflected on the record, but John’s convinced that its concerns are universal.

“I know for a fact that the climate we’re writing about is not unique to Irvine. People all over the world go through that life. They go to school, it’s crap and they get f***ed off with it, they go and do shit jobs and get f***ed off with that, then they go and sit on the dole for a few years.”

But “Cake” isn’t as dour as John’s analysis implies. The name The Trash Can Sinatras, with its juxtaposition of the sordid and the untouchable, neatly illustrates the strongest tension in the group’s music. The album suggests a band with conflicting urges to create something transcendent and to tell the plain truth. Not that they’d ever talk about it in such terms – John and fellow guitarist Paul Livingston repeatedly stress the absence of contrivance in their work, insisting that they simply mess around in their Kilmarnock studio until another swooning pop tune appears.

Chris Roberts outraged the Sinatras a few weeks ago by suggesting in a single review that they were an archetypal product of the Go! Discs label. For me, there are some parallels with The Beautiful South in particular – the sense of drama, the old-fashioned melodic virtues, the sardonic use of standard pop devices. But John couldn’t agree less.

“The only person on Go! Discs that I feel an affinity with is Billy Bragg, and that’s because he writes what he feels and can sometimes write a really brilliant song. I’d shake his hand and buy him a drink any day of the week.”

YET the Sinatras’ excellent debut single “Obscurity Knocks” was an extravagant, towering pop epic, far removed from Bragg’s spartan style; and the imminent new release “Circling The Circumference” is both noisy and precise, turbulent and flowing. The Sinatras’ melodies and lyrics are always pieced together with obvious attention to detail. As their current slogan says, “The Cliche Kills”. Over-familiar language smothers excitement and excludes new ideas. So The Trash Can Sinatras are fighting back, twisting standard pop writing till it snaps and bites.

“You know” says John, “that if someone comes up with a song called ‘I Love You’ they’ve got to be pretty dodgy. We know the value of a good lyric – how it can touch you, how it can move you, how it can make you think. And a lot of people seem to have forgotten that.”

Mainly, of course, because dance culture has made the lyricist’s craft unfashionable.

“You’re right,” Douglas concurs, “it’s unfashionable. There’s people who write great lyrics who don’t get as much attention as they deserve – like Fatima Mansions, and Band Of Holy Joy.”

As a live attraction, The Trash Can Sinatras have changed dramatically since their first London date a couple of months ago. Frontman Frank Read has changed from a petrified figure standing still, shivering and clutching his mike-stand for comfort to an almost Iggy Pop-like self-destructive spectacle. These days they demand your attention.

“We’d like people to recognise that we’re here, we’re doing this and it’s good – so that we can say, ‘Yes, we know it’s good, so what are you listening to that shit for?” declares John. “That must be the great thing about being dead famous – you can tell everybody to f*** off!”

14 July 1990 Melody Maker

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