Trashcan Sinatras have long operated at their own pace and under their own steam and are clearly reaping the benefits: the band members don’t appear to age and neither, clearly, do their songs. Unlike, on both counts, most of the almost exclusively male crowd that’s loyally and noisily assembled here to see their first Dublin show in almost a decade in a venue that, appropriately enough, was once a social refuge for thirsty workers. And judging by the spreads, stubbles, spectacles and slap-heads that sprinkle the bar-area at The Workman’s Club, The Trashcans have certainly gotten their core vote out: the turnout here goes unstintingly back the decades with them. Back to when their name also included a definite article, back to when their music was regarded widely as a defining article.
Quite how and why Trashcan Sinatras continue to endure – perpetually on the fringes, forever over-looked, consistently excellent – is their own business alone, but it’s a business for which those here tonight will be forever grateful. Part of me suspects that it’s now reached the stage where, after six compelling studio albums, they keep on keeping on simply because they can, just about. And that, almost thirty years after they first emerged from Irvine in The Smiths’ slipstream, with the smart cut-and-thrust of a young Aztec Camera – and with all the expectation associated – they’re just too far gone now for turning. Which also seems to be the case among their audiences, from whom a giddy delirium is blood-rushed once again tonight, up off of the wooden floors and deep into the neck of the elevated rostrum beyond. And there’s your connection: everyone here has not only a story but a scream and a Trashcans yarn too. I’ve long bored my own friends and family rigid with the usual old jaw about majesty and the vagaries of the music market, proselytising. But I’ll continue to do so as long as the band keeps putting it’s best feet forward and, if that now means once every six or seven years, then so be it.
So tonight is far less a one-night stand, then, and way more of a real occasion. To which folk have travelled from all parts, as is discernible from the many high-octane conversations around the venue before and especially after the show and also by the interventions from the floor at intervals during the band’s set. That proclaim, as lovingly as they do invariably, the band’s genius and which, for a change, fall not on deaf ears but on those which may be moderately-functioning, aided and otherwise. Around the sides and in the alcoves, I’m certain I recognise a couple of heads from way back while, scattered around the back of what is one of Dublin’s most welcoming live music venues, a coterie of old-hands can recall and recite, from memory, the minutiae of the band’s first two albums, ‘Cake’ and the irrepressible ‘I’ve Seen Everything’, around which were sown the first drills of unstinting loyalty.
But while the band is in town to ostensibly promote it’s recent album release, ‘Wild Pendulum’ – constituency work, we can call it – there’s a sense here too that the day-to-day process and routine that defines so many jobbing bands just isn’t really relevant in this case. Trashcan Sinatras have been playing to the converted for far too long now – it’s been years since their audiences became so selective – so that, without pressure or prejudice, they can simply rock up, plug-in and drive-on, just keeping the home fires on the burn. Because all anyone is really seeking tonight is validation and assurance: that sense that, with The Trashcans still around, all can be well, however fleetingly.
And, as has been the case on those numerous occasions over the years, they just effortlessly and instinctively deliver. Because while their last two albums are certainly more layered and require more attention than those that went previously, their canon is so wide and magnificent that, over the course of any random twenty-song set, it’s just impossible for them to really put a single hair out of place. Dipping as far back as the their 1990 debut single, ‘Obscurity Knocks’, with it’s magnetic indie swagger, through the middle-order magic of ‘I’ve Seen Everything’,‘Weightlifting’ and ‘The Genius I Was’ to the more recent, post-graduate hand-craft of ‘Wild Pendulum’ – especially the royal flush of ‘All Night’, ‘Best Days On Earth’ and ‘Ain’t That Something’ – there is, as ever, something wildly consoling about The Trashcans and how they go about their work. In a year that’s been pock-marked by loss, in a week in which Cohen was lost over-board and Trump came home, there’s hope in the little things yet.
The terrific local singer and writer, Carol Keogh [Plague Monkeys, Tycho Brahe, Automata], is another long-time fan of the band and joins them to augment ‘Send For Henny’ and ‘What’s Inside The Box’, during which she manages the near impossible: elevates a magnificent band to even further heights. And just to connect all of the dots, Frank Duff of The Blue Brass lends a Tijuana trumpet feel to ‘All Night’ and ‘I’ve Seen Everything’: the last time three different Franks were seen on the same stage together in this part of the world was when ‘After All’ and ‘This Is Not A Song’ were the pop songs du jour and The Trashcans and The Frank and Walters were mates on a major record label.
As is traditional now, the extent and breadth of the band’s back catalogue dictates many of the post-mortems around the venue afterwards, with as much talk about those songs that went un-wrapped as those that they played. A short cameo for ‘Iceberg’ but no ‘Earlies’. ‘How Can I Apply’ but no sign of ‘I’ll Get Them In’, and so on. No ‘Wild Mountainside’. No ‘I See The Moon’. It’s what happens, I guess, when a surfeit of gold from the hills meets the limits of an early curfew.
On the way out, one of our number encountered The Trashcans’ guitarist John Douglas at the front door of the venue. He’d thoroughly enjoyed the show, loved The Workman’s and would certainly have hung around except that, with a ferry to catch at 6AM and a show the following evening in London, the band was beating an early retreat. Immediately next door, The Clarence Hotel, co-owned by members of U2 and a monument to their standing as one of rock music’s most successful concerns, both critically and financially, is still bustling and busy: punters, guests and revellers mill about the building and around the entrance to the trendy liquor bar beneath it.
And its against this backdrop that The Trashcans slowly lug their own gear into a back-alley in inner Dublin, in the dead of a cold Autumn night, onwards.