The Trash Can Sinatras – I’ve Seen Everything

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Yet another album I bought twice. I remember seeing the Trash Can Sinatras listed in the 9:30 Club’s weekly ad in the City Paper (the alternative newspaper in Washington, D.C.) when I was in college. I did not go to that show. I can’t remember why, but it is very likely because I was so disappointed in this second album. In retrospect, that was dumb, but I was a dumb kid (and still am). 

What I Think of This Album

There’s nothing wrong with maturity. It’s just that it’s not much fun. And that’s the big knock against an album that is in some ways richer and more substantial than Cake. In the three years since the debut, the band grew up (and also replaced bassists) and it shows. Recorded again at Shabby Road, the quintet exudes confidence across a diverse collection of songs, none of which relies on the bright enthusiasm and energetic immediacy that characterized the first album.

Many (too many) of the Everything tracks are subdued, and probably four of them should’ve been cut entirely, and they do not mesh well with the better songs, leaving an album that lacks vision and density. This is a disc that requires a bit of work on the part of the listener.

An even greater effort, though, is required to decide whether the title track or “Bloodrush” is the best song here. Any band would be envious of either, and it’s surprising that this pair nonetheless fails to make the album cohere. “Bloodrush” is, as its title conveys, a thrumming charge through the swaying fields of pop, with invigorating guitar lines (that could’ve been higher in the mix) and a drumbeat that won’t quit. “I’ve Seen Everything” is more relaxed but arguably brighter, with a guitar sound that approaches the jangle of the early days, though that comparison is undone by a wonderful trumpet and a complex, gorgeous melody that seems to never stop unfolding.

“Hayfever” sits a notch below, which means it is still pretty goddamn good. After a rush and a push and a shove from piano and drums, the song gets swept up by a strong current of strings. There is a tension between lightness and dark – the strings take on an ominous cast while the piano plinks dangerously and Frank Reader’s delivery of “Hello, I’m Harry” sounds more threatening than friendly, but the song still feels uplifting, and the drums at the end are a rockin’ revelation. Opening track “Easy Road” begins deceptively, with a simple acoustic guitar. It then blossoms into a colorful orchestral pop track over which Reader lays down a soulful vocal.

“Killing the Cabinet” finds the band flirting with experimentation. The seemingly straightforward song adds some angular guitar and possibly a backwards guitar and devolves into a repetitive, mantra-like coda with a distorted guitar part, all of which threatens to fall apart. Also, I swear I hear strings and horns but there are no credits for either on this song, but I suspect the string sound is just the lush harmonies (sometimes stacked to the rafters, with more than one countermelody going) and the horn is just a guitar tone?

The band adds some unexpected muscle to “One At a Time,” an angry piece with a sawing lead guitar line, and while this is a great song, it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album (it would instead sound perfect on an early Idlewild album). That’s six strong tracks . . . that are less than half the album, and are diluted by the slower, quieter songs that surround them.

All momentum generated by the opening trio is canceled out by “Worked a Miracle” – folky and spare and not compelling – and the mercifully brief minor key guitar picking of “The Perfect Reminder.” In the four songs between “Cabinet” and “One,” the band again slows and quiets things down. “Orange Fell” is actually a very pretty song with a very good arrangement, and it even gains some energy partway through, but it can’t quite distinguish itself from the surrounding, lesser songs. “Send for Henny” suffers from the same fate as “Orange” – this is a good track that probably comes across as blander than it would without the songs around it.

Like “Iceberg,” for example, which is as ponderously slow as its titular object (there is definitely backwards guitar here, wasted on this frankly pointless track). Some people really like “I’m Immortal” but the song feels too gossamer to me (even though the bass does some admittedly nimble work). “The Hairy Years” has some nice harmonies, and is generally a pleasant if completely unexciting tune. “Earlies” is even less interesting.

Ray Shulman (Gentle Giant) produced, and he also did work for Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen), the Sugarcubes, and the Sundays.

The Best Thing About This Album

I can’t choose between “Bloodrush” and “I’ve Seen Everything.”

Release Date

May, 1993

The Cover Art

I find this art – by guitarist John Douglas – to be very disturbing. It literally gives me nightmares.

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