Friday, August 14, 2009

Live in Concert: Trashcan Sinatras 8/06/09

This feels like blasphemy. One of my favorite bands and I'm speaking ill of them. I was even lucky enough to meet them once and they couldn't be nicer. It doesn't feel right, but neither did their show. In fact, neither does the trip they're on these days. I'm disappointed.

Here's some backstory. TCS burst on the scene in 1990 with their debut album, Cake (my 2nd all-time favorite album). Their popcraft was immediate and beautiful, their wordplay clever. It was the perfect sound for the time and completely in line with contemporaries like the Ocean Blue, the Smiths, and Aztec Camera. Cake was not the smash in America that it should have been (though popular on alternative radio thanks to the obvious perfection of singles "Obscurity Knocks" and "Only Tongue Can Tell" which if you don't like them, you don't know what joy feels like) and they followed it up with the comparatively darker I've Seen Everything, which also underperformed in spite of another infectious single, "Hayfever". Here's where things get dicey.

This was followed by A Happy Pocket, an almost glacially paced album of heavily hushed tunes that their record company refused to release stateside and remains out of print and hard to find to this day. Not that it's a total lost, despite a few pretty tracks (including their somber take on "To Sir, With Love") it is quite a bear to get through. Then, they disappeared without nary a peep for eight years before coming back in a major way with 2004's Weightlifting. Their fans rejoiced! The songcraft hadn't lost a step in the years off, but, if I'm honest, the songs got very delicate and soft. Still beautiful, in fact there may have been TOO high a premium on beauty, (as evidenced by "Weightlifting" and the gorgeous "Got Carried Away"). No one minded too much because we were so glad to have them back. I love that album, but that joy has been replaced with some sorrow and sympathy.

Ok, here's the point: the concert was almost completely dominated by new material. They just produced a new album called In The Music that has, so far, only been available online. If Weightlifting was soft, then In The Music is practically weightless. The show consisted of ZERO songs off Cake (I was so pissed), three from Everything, ZERO from Pocket (just as well), three from Weight and the rest new.

So, do the math with me on this. A beloved band returns from hibernation choosing (that's the key word here, bands don't forget to play those songs, it's a choice) to ignore the past and focus on the now. That works if you're a band like U2 or the Cure who have an extensive catalog of hits and crowd faves that people will forgive you for skipping some obscure early faves. But, TCS only have five albums and it was the early stuff that hooked us! You can't throw us a bone and just sprinkle a couple of them here and there? There was a section in the show of about seven sleepy new songs in a row (remember, the album has not even been officially released). You expect people to stay awake for that? Here's another sort of nervey thing, they kicked the show off with a new song (of course) and then played two crowd faves ("Hayfever" and "Easy Read") back to back and then didn't return to the classics until the end of the show. That's such cruel foreplay! It's like they wanted to get that stuff over with as soon as possible, yet satiate the crowd who don't know that's the last bite they'll get for a long time.
Bands will often try to distance themselves from their past because they get tired of playing the hits, or they were only that way in the first place because of label pressure (notice the descent of the Police, especially Sting, who went from angry, artful punks, to guys who write music for soccer moms). But when your career and output are as scattered as TCS's, ignoring a chapter of your history is ignoring half the story! Plus, it's the good part!

I'm afraid my TCS worship has fallen off the rails. I'll continue to get their music (the new album, which I bought at the show, is underwhelming so far), but I doubt I'll pay to see them live again. It's a shame, I was rooting for them. The world is a better place with them in it, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. The weird thing is, I'm a "friend" of theirs on facebook and they post setlists and such every couple days. Well, I took it as an opportunity to tell them I was annoyed about the show. They didn't respond, but the other fans sure did. Some of them were on my side and felt similarly, others were calling for my head. My feeling is, if you're going to purposely alienate your fans like that, you deserve to get kicked in the nuts a little. I just hope they don't get their feelings hurt and disappear for another eight years.

The opener, however, was a band I had never heard of but now love called Brookville. No one knew them, they asked the crowd a couple times to no response at all, but people were impressed. Turns out, Brookville is basically Andy Chase's band and Andy is a member of Ivy, an excellent band that I like a lot, as well as the producer of some of the TCS's stuff. So, the night wasn't a complete waste. It's like I went on a double date and ended up with a crush on my date's friend. It ain't cool, but love is love and so is good music.


Farrah said...

Since you failed to mention it, I would like to go on the record as having discovered Brookville before you.

AnnieB said...

This was such a good read and I'm not even sure of the band or their songs. Please tell me that you submit your writings to music blogs? You should be getting paid for this. It's your calling. Explore it. Don't lose your day job, but explore it.

Marilyn said...

I agree with Annie!

Brooke & Jake said...

I agree with the others. More people need to discover your blog.