Trashcan Sinatras In Concert in San Juan Capistrano

by George A. Paul

Whenever Trashcan Sinatras unveil a new album and tour America, it’s a special 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), which spawned modern rock hits (“Obscurity Knocks,” “Only Tongue Can Tell”) and was a mainstay at such influential Los Angeles 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 and received more attention at alt-rock radio. Since then, the lads have put out three more releases.

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 of the Sinatras’ cannon. It was released last month after a successful PledgeMusic campaign. Mogis’ Bright Eyes compatriot Nate Walcott was 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 was culled from I’ve Seen Everything. “Only Tongue Can Tell” was dispatched right away and got a rousing response.

The uplifting “All the Dark Horses,” elevated by the Douglas Brothers’ backing harmonies and an extended outro by Mulhearn (whose instrument, like the backdrop, was covered in a bright seagulls-in-flight scene) proved to be an early highlight.

Bespectacled lead singer Frank Reader introduced the short and sweet orchestral grandeur of “The Family Way” as “a little vaudeville.” A sense of ominous drama came from “Autumn,” where Paul Livingston’s careening slide guitar shined. 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 now-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 the fleshed out sound since this only happens 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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