December 2004

The Trashcan Sinatras - Weightlifting
Spin Art 154
Format: CD
Released: 2004

by Anthony Di Marco

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

When it comes to pop music, melody is a lost art. Much of the "melody" in today’s popular music often amounts to a single synthesizer loop or guitar riff offering a quick hook without any dramatic or emotional payoff. Songs that infuse emotional weight via well-crafted melodies are hard to find. Even rarer are polyphonic compositions where more than one melody forms counterpoints with another.

My relationship with The Trashcan Sinatras began shortly after a good friend played "Even the Odd" off the 1989 release Cake. The song’s recursive guitar melody coupled with the desperate vocals of Frank Reader made it an instant classic to my ears. Despite the Scottish band’s relatively small body of work, all their albums contain, arguably, some of the best pop songs ever written. "Only Tongue Will Tell," "Obscurity Knocks" and "I’ve Seen Everything" reinforced the band’s knack for combining complex guitar melodies with lovely vocal harmonies. This is music that reaches deeper than your average three-minute chart-topper.

Weightlifting finds the group a little older but no less capable at composing fabulous songs. Like the majority of great music, it takes a couple of listens from beginning to end before the genius of each track sinks in and grabs you. From the marvelous bridge on "It’s a Miracle" to the suppressed passion of "A Coda," to the gorgeous guitar on "Leave me Alone" there is not a single one of Weightlifting’s 12 songs that fails. Unlike the superficial hooks of most throw away pop, the solid build-up of "All the Dark Horses" and the title track, "Weightlifting," don’t loose their power even after repeated listens. Each develops from a simple lyric to an infectious chorus followed by an emotionally arresting bridge. And each further proves how the band’s steadfast command of melody renders each song genuinely catchy and emotionally satisfying.

I can’t remember the last time I got lost in the rhythm and atmosphere of music as consistently as I did listening to Weightlifting. Even the production, which leans toward a slightly bright and threadbare, albeit snappy timbre did little to upset this memorable piece of pop perfection. Weightlifting is one of the most impressive pop records of 2004.