Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Trashcan Sinatras concert review: San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

photo by George A. Paul
Whenever Trashcan Sinatras unveil a new album and tour America, it’s a rare treat.

Formed in the late ‘80s, the Scottish band made its initial mark Stateside with the jangly guitar pop of magnificent 1990 debut CD Cake (a Desert Island Disc for this writer). It spawned modern rock radio hits (“Obscurity Knocks,” “Only Tongue Can Tell”) and was a fixture at such influential Southern California FM stations as KROQ and KCRW.

Meanwhile, the accompanying videos garnered prime airplay on tastemaker MTV program “120 Minutes.” An equally impressive I’ve Seen Everything emerged three years later, received more attention at alt-rock radio and helped pave the way for such similar minded acts as Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Since then, the lads put out three other critically acclaimed releases after extended breaks.

Now they’re back with Wild Pendulum, the excellent follow up to 2009’s In the Music, which was produced by Mike Mogis (Jenny Lewis, Pete Yorn) and stands among the best within the Sinatras’ cannon. Released last month after a successful PledgeMusic campaign, Mogis’ Bright Eyes compatriot Nate Walcott and old friend Simon Dine (Paul Weller) were among the additional studio musicians involved.

On Sunday night, Trashcan Sinatras – augmented by touring keyboardist Stevie Mulhearn and bassist Frank DiVanna - drew a good-sized crowd to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The mild mannered group kicked off its 95-minute, 23-song set with the elegant “Best Days on Earth” – the first of seven sublime tracks off Pendulum. Another major chunk came from I’ve Seen Everything. “Only Tongue Can Tell” was dispatched right away and got a rousing response.

photo by George A. Paul
The uplifting “All the Dark Horses,” elevated by the Douglas Brothers’ backing harmonies and an extended outro by Mulhearn proved to be an early highlight.   

Lead singer Frank Reader introduced the short and sweet orchestral grandeur of “The Family Way” as “a little vaudeville.” A sense of ominous drama enveloped  “Autumn,” where Paul Livingston shined on careening slide guitar. The stellar “Ain’t That Something” (about Reader’s current LA home base) boasted a poppy sheen and full-on harmonies that belied key line “we are definitely doomed.”  

Although 1993 alt-rock hit “Hayfever” contains the currently timely lyric, “should I throw my tammy in the ring and run for president,” Reader didn’t mention politics. That tune came across strong as ever live; the same held true for “Easy Read” and the lush “Send for Henny.”

Two horn players joined the Sinatras’ onstage during a gently cascading “I’ve Seen Everything” and infectious, dance friendly standout “All Night” (a surefire hit). Orange County fans were lucky to experience a fleshed out sound since guests only turn up at selected shows. The romantic, sway-worthy “People” closed the main set on a charming note.  

Come encore time, the Beatlesque “Bloodrush” saw the band totally rock out, while Reader’s hushed vocals and Stephen Douglas’ brushstroke drum work during “Safecracker” provided the perfect light touch. They closed with the still alluring “Obscurity Knocks,” even if Reader had a little trouble keeping up with his own rapid fire wordplay from a quarter century ago.

All told, the concert found Trashcan Sinatras in fine fettle and was a welcome return.

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