Bullz-Eye: Well, you know, you could always go the Kickstarter route. That seems to be getting pretty popular these days.
Francis Reader: …in terms of getting money from people on the promise that you’re going to go in and make a record…? Something about that just rubs me the wrong way. I’d rather be as independent about it as possible. Obviously, with record companies in the past, that’s what they’d do, but that’s a different thing. You’d have an agreement and a contract. Working with individual donations…I mean, we may do it, but I was thinking that maybe that’s something we could do with repackaging the back catalog. When it comes down to actually making new music and people paying you up front, I would find, for instance, the idea of how much of a perfectionist you want to be would be affected. “Well, I don’t actually like that record.” “Yeah, but people have paid for it, and they’re waiting for it.” (Sighs) “All right, well, okay, we’ll just give ‘em it, then.”
In 2015, they took the money.
And there is nothing wrong with that. If anything, it’s the norm for bands who dare to exist in spite of any chart relevance. I personally have contributed to crowd funding campaigns for Cheap Trick, Veruca Salt, the Jayhawks, the English Beat, and legendary Scottish band the Trashcans (so says their concert merchandise, anyway), who of course exceeded their funding goal by over 50% because they have one of the most devoted fan bases a band can ask for.
The curious thing about Wild Pendulum, the band’s latest and sixth album to date, is that this does not sound like a band whose perfectionism was in any way compromised. Indeed, this is the oddest album the band has ever done, awash with strings, layer upon layer of keys, and ethereal vocals that sound like the kind of thing that would normally score a Disney cartoon from the ‘50s. All of these additions are at the expense of guitarist Paul Livingston, whose trademark jangly guitar goes missing for long stretches of time. As choices go, that is…an interesting one.
The album’s first three songs cover familiar territory, though two of those three bring new elements to the table as well. “Ain’t That Something” is as straightforward a pop song as the band has ever written, and the addition of the Beach Boys-ish harmonies sends the song sky-high. Album opener “Let Me In (Or Let Me Out)” sports a similarly ‘60s vibe, while “Best Days on Earth” is vintage Trashcans, armed with a Velcro chorus and signature vocal from Reader.
From there, however, the goings are borderline virgin territory for the band. “Family Way” and “I’m Not the Fella,” with the right context, could stand as songs from a musical about a girl who gets knocked up by a deadbeat. “All Night” is about dancing in a club, of all things, the kind of thing the band likely hasn’t done in two decades. The arrangement is one of those modern-day arrangements where the song just ends without warning, and it’s jarring. Stranger, the final measures sound like they’re tape loops. Loops? What is happening here?
What’s happening, it appears, is a band becoming aware of exactly what it has to lose, which is not a goddamned thing. They are preaching almost exclusively to the choir at this point, so why not take some risks? Even the band’s fans who don’t love this album (but will still like it, because Trashcans) will admire it for its adventurousness, but the lack of that bedrock Trashcans jangle guitar, combined with an overabundance of orchestral touches, makes Wild Pendulum a challenging listen at times.