Trashcan Sinatras Weightlifting
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The Trash Can Sinatras' third album, 1996's A Happy Pocket, sank out of sight on a wave of apathy from the record-buying public, critics, and seemingly the bandmembers themselves. Apart from a hard to find EP from 2000, Weightlifting is the group's first album since and it is a satisfying return to the jangling heights of their wonderful albums Cake (1990) and I've Seen Everything (1993). The band has thankfully made few concessions to modern times. There are no drum loops, soundscapes, or duff hip-hop tracks; nothing here wouldn't have sounded perfect in the early '90s. They also have written a batch of soothingly melodic, achingly pretty songs that may not contain anything as immediate or hooky as "Obscurity Knocks" or "Hayfever," but still pack quite the emotional punch. Frank Reader's voice is the same sweet melancholy croon that it was back in the day, and he wraps it around some melancholy gems that will be twanging the heartstrings of Trash Can fans both old and new. The majority of the album's tracks are lovely ballads like "Got Carried Away," "What Woman Do to Men," and "A Coda," the last being the best of them with its strings and Scottish soul feel. "Usually" is the standout; Reader sounds positively angelic and the strings bathe him in sorrowful splendor. "Country Air" is also a splendid cut with some plangent acoustic guitar, loads of atmosphere, and some smart soundtrack-flavored chord changes. The uptempo songs are darn good, too; "Welcome Back" is a powerful opener and statement of intent, "It's a Miracle" combines classic '90s jangle pop guitars with a bouncing beat and some rumbling timpani, and the title track has rich backing vocals and Reader's most intimate and powerful vocals. The song that should be a hit is the glittering "Freetime," with its jaunty beat, winning melody, and bells -- of course it won't be, but what can you do? Play it again and again, one supposes. The only small flaw with the album is the occasional heavy metal guitar solo that stands out like a sore plectrum. That kind of guitar-store technique has little place in music as charming and sweetly pastoral as this. Luckily, it only rears its ugly mug once or twice, most notably on "Welcome Back." Apart from that, Weightlifting is like a gift to anyone who was left hanging by the band's disappearance. Listening to the record makes you feel like it's 1993 again -- in a good way; a melodic, honest, and jangly kind of way; a way that makes you think "nobody makes records like this anymore." Hey, not too many people made them as good as this back then, either. A great comeback that deserves every last bit of attention it gets.