Compelling narratives of disappointment and despair, which give voice to the lonely.
Alix Buscovic 2010-04-09
Far away from Ramsey Street and Summer Bay, from the Technicolor dreams of Jason Donovan and Kylie’s disco fever, lies a landscape of skewed beauty and isolation, vast sky and empty plain, where the stars glitter in a darkness that can smother the soul. This is the soil that nurtured The Triffids, whose wistful charm and beguiling melancholia ravishes the senses as powerfully as their literary namesake.
Formed in Perth, Australia’s remotest city, at the fag end of the 1970s, the late singer-songwriter David McComb’s band of post-punk minstrels quickly garnered a loyal fanbase. They self-released a slew of cassettes, put out a string of albums and EPs – and then imploded in 199o. But a recent re-mastering and re-issuing of their back catalogue is proof, perhaps, that The Triffids are still blooming.
While pruning such a prolific output (even the 10-CD box set, released on the same day as this compilation, isn’t fully comprehensive) to 18 tracks was always going to result in the healthy getting hacked with the weeds, the odd weed (the sleep-inducing Goodbye Little Boy) has also managed to survive. Still, most of The Best of… is worthy of the title.
Take, for example, The Seabirds, from arguably their best album, Born Sandy Devotional, whose well-spun tale of a suicidal depressive belies its gorgeous country-tinged pop stylings; or the veritably bouncy Go-Betweens-esque musing on lost love, A Trick of the Light.
Here, too, is proof of The Triffids’ diversity – accordion-riffed folk (Jerdacuttup Man), sun-bathed Television (Reverie), and eerie, discomfiting slices of tamed Birthday Party (Kathy Knows, Property Is Condemned). In fact, Lonely Stretch, an intense, burning slab that builds and heaves as Wurlitzers swirl and its protagonist loses the plot, makes bass player Martyn Casey’s current job as a Bad Seed seem like his only career choice.
These are songs that don’t so much have lyrics as stories; compelling, elegant narratives of disappointment and despair, which give voice to the lonely, the marginalised and the silenced. This is not just the sound of an isolated part of the Antipodes – it’s the sound of humanity, all over the globe.