The Triffids were one of 1980’s Australia’s greatest alternative rock groups. Grand, sweeping songs, driven by the basslines of Martyn Casey, later of The Bad Seeds and Grinderman. Born Sandy Devotional hasn’t been in print on vinyl since the original release in 1986, and is now handsomely remastered. Limited edition, on heavyweight vinyl.
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10/10 Basket Press Customer review, 1st December 2015
What makes a great album great? Many things, but one is the perfect blending of words and music to support and enhance each other.
Which brings us to Born Sandy Devotional, the third album by Ozzie band The Triffids, a 6 piece from Perth, WA, based around the singing and song-writing of David McComb, and featuring Martyn Casey before he became a Bad Seed, who fetched up in Blighty to seek their fame and fortune. The album was released in 1986, and bought by next to no-one. This is a great shame, as you all missed out. Produced by Gil Norton, who worked on The Bunnymen's Ocean Rain and so no stranger to biiiiiig sounds, it is one of the most wide-screen, epic, positively Cinemascope albums of that or any other decade. It's by no means a happy album, with broken relationships, resentment, revenge, threats of violence, suicide, longing, loss and despair oozing out from every song, biblical imagery applied as necessary, and huge desert landscapes playing as important a role as the characters lost within them. This marriage of the vast sound and the imagery is part of what makes the album great.
The sound, like The Bunnies, is somewhat Doors/Velvets influenced but with rather more interesting uses of instruments: the steel guitars of “Evil” Graham Lee being a crucial component, colouring and enhancing the songs, by turn menacing or haunting; the vibraphones on “The Seabirds”, “Estuary Bed” or “Tarrilup Bridge” adding subtle rhythmic inflections; the harrowing string arrangement on “Lonely Stretch”; the rhythm section of Casey and Alsy McDonald mostly eschew conventional rock 4/4 timing in favour of something looser, with Casey tending to nail the pulse and tempo of the song while McDonald makes the drums more of a melodic instrument.
Then there're McComb's words. The best known song must be “Wide Open Road”, which was seized upon as a sort of theme tune by a number of ex-pat Ozzies, and it gives a flavour of the album as a whole, with a sound in keeping with its title and its lyrics telling of loss, jealousy, a desire for revenge and retribution, all delivered in McComb's wracked, tortured baritone, placing the listener squarely in the protagonist's lonely world. These themes continue through the likes of “Lonely Stretch” (the title's a bit of a clue) and “The Seabirds”, detouring into images of death in “Chickenkiller” and then suicide in “Tarrilup Bridge”, sung in a wavering, affecting, manner by keyboardist Jill Birt, before reaching what is for me the highpoint of the album, “Stolen Property”, reeking of separation, confusion, disdain for an ex, a struggle to accept loss, then ultimately looking towards a new future. The album closes with “Tender is the Night”, again sung by Jill Birt, with its, surely autobiographical, description of “a gentle young man, I cannot say for certain the reasons for his decline”.
McComb had problems with alcohol and heroin use which contributed to his death in 1999...
8/10 Jack Customer review, 11th November 2015
This is an extraordinary album. It has a wonderful lushness and sense of space, although most of the songs deal with loss, regret and isolation. The late David McComb's lyrics are extremely evocative and unusual - "No foreign pair of dark sunglasses could ever shield you from/The light that pierces your eyelids, the screaming of the gulls" are the lines which open the album. It's a very emotional album, made all the more so by the haunted note in David McComb's voice. This will appeal to fans of skewed pop like The Go-Betweens, The Smiths, REM or even Nick Cave in his slightly less lurid moments.
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