This was a very special evening. It felt that it was a denial and celebration of mortality combined with a bloody good night out.
The Triffids reassembled in London minus their leader. David McComb died in 1999 but his influence was everywhere. From the snapshots of the band in their Australian youth, through the performance of his songs and the acknowledgement of debt by his peers, this was evening where he was justly celebrated.
What also was celebrated was the enduring quality of the Triffids, a band of fine musicians playing wonderful material. McCombs, their front man, was replaced on the evening by a number of friends of the band, each of whom brought different qualities to the fore. Rob Snarski of the Black-eyed Susans brought the soulful elements. JP Shilo emphasised the darker side to McCombs material, whereas the preacher man Simon Breed gave wings to the evening.
“Born Sandy Devotional” is a very special and hugely underrated record. Released in 1986, it captures so many aspects of the Triffids. The heat, the sea, the sun and the sand are everywhere. There is also the sense of dislocation. The Triffids were from distant Perth in Western Australia, and then twice removed, first to Sydney and then ultimately to London. The record conveys these huge distances and their impact.
The record also captures some wonderful short stories – the lost soul walking towards the beach in “The Seabirds”, the woman driving her car off over the edge in “Tarrilup Bridge”. It has a huge sweeping arc to it, that brings to mind the Bunnymen’s string driven “Ocean Rain”. This is hardly surprising as the LP was produced in London and Liverpool by Gil Norton who produced the Scousers’ LP two years earlier.
He announced their trial separation, and spent the night in a Park Beach Motel
a total stranger lying next to him,rain hitting the root hard over his head,
She said “What’s the matter now lover boy, has the cat run off with your
Are you drinking to get maudlin, or drinking to get numb?” (The Seabirds)
The band had got tired of being threatened by mullet haired Aussie thugs and like their contemporaries The Birthday Party and The Go-Betweens headed to the UK to try and make it in the early Eighties. They were feted by the music press and quickly became cover stars for the NME.
The press never quite translated into sales though. All of their LPs stand on their own merits thirty years on. What was informative and gratifying in Islington though was taking my other half N along and seeing how quickly she was won over. The constantly changing cast of musician, the between songs anecdotes and the clear bond between the band and the audience made for a great evening.
Highlights were many. Jill Birt did her best little girl lost schtick on “Tarrilup Bridge”, Breed’s performance of “Stolen Property” was show stopping and the touching “Tender Is The Night” were just wonderful examples of great songs brilliantly performed. Graham Lee’s pedal steel was a consistent presence from the opening swell of “The Seabirds”, adding ambient washes rather than the filigree adornments when the instrument is played in a country and western setting.
Baby let’s go out tonight
It will all turn out all rIght I’m sure
Don’t want to drink at home again tonight
So let’s go out
Let’s go out tonight
It’s getting dark earlier now
But where you are it’s just getting light (Tender Is The Night)
That sense of distance is everywhere, from the lover on the other side of the globe in “Tender Is The Night” to the great drive across Australia in “Wide Open Road” and “Lonely Stretch”.
We got a good run of non-“Sandy” tracks afterwards. “Red Pony”, “Bury Me Deep In Your Love”. “Hell Of A Summer” and “Raining Pleasure” all showed the depth in the catalogue and were skilfully rendered by the guest singers.
I’ve never been to Australia, let alone the West Coast. However, I feel like I recognise the arid beauty of the Perth area from just this one record. If this LP has the power to continue to transport, that’s a hell of an achievement.