The Triffids
Born Sandy Devotional
1986/2006
B+




hello readers, Troy Tempest here. In order to pay off my debt to society for the role I played in the unfortunate incident involving a certain Australian croc-bothering legend, I’ll be introducing and discussing some classic antipodean records for the good people of Stylus. Today we’ll be exploring the Triffids, a band who appear somewhat lesser-known outside their native territory. Stand by for action! We are about to launch the review! Anything can happen in the next 500 words!


Those are my lines Troy, you useless underwater gonk. What you have pathetically neglected to mention is that Born Sandy Devotional is the first release of a Triffids reissue campaign and contains an extra albums-worth of bonus tracks as well as the original recording. Hopelessly, you also forgot to inform everyone that this album built on the ideas explored on earlier records and found a certain degree of commercial success with the single “Wide Open Road.” You should have drawn attention to the occasional blues influence and folk stylings employed by the group, and the mournful narratives explored by the late David McComb. In fact, if you weren’t such a wretched human being, you would also consider whether comparisons to other Australian musicians like Nick Cave or the Go-Betweens were reassuringly apt or simply lazy.


I was getting to that, Commander. Certainly some of the starker tracks evoke an early-Cave type vibe, capturing a similar sense of a band and singer on the verge of dissolving into chaos. “When A Man Turns Bad” could be a lost Bad Seeds song, as could “Lonely Stretch”—but McComb mines different lyrical territory and keeps mercifully clear of piano ballads about Jesus. Similarly, a passing melody might bear resemblance to a Go-Betweens number, yet it would be reductionist to paint the Triffids as nothing more than a crude Nick-Betweens amalgam. They provide their own thematic references which seem to closely echo the Born Sandy Devotional cover shot; an aerial view of a vast, earthen river outlet with tiny rural communities dotted along the shorelines. Almost every aspect of this photograph pops up on the record, from bridges and estuaries to dusty roads and seabirds, matched with the general feel of a tough, rugged life. One, nonetheless, which is touched as much by heartbreak as it is by harvests. Wouldn’t you agree, Phones?


You ain’t wrong, Troy. Hot dang, we’re receiving a message from King Titan of Titanica!


Greetings, puny humans. As the “evil” character of the series, my presence metaphorically alludes to the darker aspects of this intriguing album. Break-up and suicide become familiar companions throughout, and even the tunes touched by gentle beauty carry more than a hint of sadness with them. McComb’s words create a world that is paradoxically personal, yet open for all to view. When an ostensibly up-tempo stomper arrives in the form of “Chicken Killer,” it brings with it the unsettling visage of a mysterious psychopath hailed by a chorus of misguided children. Later cuts are essentially spoken-word poetry pieces, musing on the insecurity and intrinsic sadness of life. It’s powerful stuff, but not as powerful as my mighty undersea empire.


Well put, my fishy adversary. It’s quite clear that this record will appeal to more than just those who, for example, have been blinded by staring at an impressive comet and are now hunted for sport by aggressive plant life. Truly it is a reissued treat, enabling curious persons to investigate and, hopefully, recognize the group as worthy companions to Cave and chums, but with their own inimitable approach. However, I would take issue with the futile picture of romance being offered for consumption. It’s no wonder people get so despondent when they don’t even have a healthy relationship to begin with. Just be more like me and find yourself a mute lady who’s continually bound up in string.


...


Ha ha ha, oh you. Goodbye everyone!



Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2006-09-14
Comments (1)

 
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