On 5 February 2007 Domino continue their Triffids reissue programme with the release of two very contrasting, seminal albums, ‘In The Pines’ and ‘Calenture’. Both albums have been remastered and will be released with additional music in an expanded format as limited edition CDs. They follow the 2006 reissue of the band’s ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ album, which, voted ‘Reissue of the Month’ in Uncut magazine, signaled the start of a rolling campaign that will see all The Triffids’ albums reissued, and will culminate in a Best of and Rarities set. A hradback book written by Bleddyn Butcher adout David McComb and The Triffids will also be published during this period.
In The Pines & Calenture
by Andrew Mueller
In The Pines and Calenture, reissued by Domino nearly two decades after their original releases, are two very, very different albums. In The Pines was recorded in a Western Australian woolshed on a budget barely clearing four figures of Australias woebegone dollar and the most expensive single item on the bill, as dutifully noted on the sleeve, was beer. Calenture was recorded in studios in London, Liverpool and Bath, with a major labels money and a soon to be big-name producer. Two very, very different albums, by one very, very different band.
The Triffids had formed in Perth in the late 70s, when singer and principal songwriter, the late David McComb, was still at school. As The Triffids relocated to Sydney and then to Europe in the early and mid-1980s, they released a sequence of well-received records (Treeless Plain, Raining Pleasure) and settled into a six-piece lineup comprising McComb (vocals, guitar), his brother Robert (violin, guitar), Jill Birt (keyboards), Alsy MacDonald (drums), Martyn Casey (later of the Bad Seeds, bass), Evil Graham Lee (pedal steel, guitar).
Before embarking on the globe-spanning journeys on which In The Pines and Calenture gestated, The Triffids had, in 1986, banked the first of the succession of masterpieces which Domino are presently engaged in repackagaing, Born Sandy Devotional, a furious hymn to the desolation of the soul, set in the Australian outback. Born Sandy Devotional won gleaming reviews at the time, and again upon its re-release in 2006 (A dazzling treasure, said Uncut, One of the dozen greatest albums ever made, said The Guardian).
The Triffids recorded Born Sandy Devotional in a studio in London, its blindingly intense reflections of their homeland perhaps partly fuelled by homesickness. In The Pines was to serve as a reconnection. Back in their native Perth, The Triffids rented recording equipment, loaded their vehicles with musical instruments, eight-track recording equipment and the aforesaid beer, and went bush -to Ravensthorpe, Western Australia, population 450, a 550 kilometre drive across the emptiness which had inspired Born Sandy Devotional.
In The Pines seemed, at the time, an eccentric career move. The Triffids were widely believed, by their modest but fervent fanbase and a legion of crusading critics, to be but one determined, faithful leap from ascent to the stratospheres. Wandering off into the outback, much like one of the deranged characters that had inhabited Born Sandy Devotional, did not seem calculated to redeem the tantalising promise of that astounding album. The Triffids knew what they were doing, though: In The Pines is a thing of modest majesty, at once haunted by the desolation of its circumstances (the gothic folk waltz of the title track, the knelling, intense Kathy Knows) and suffused with the infectious camaraderie of people making music for the joy of it (a rowdy singalong of Bill Andersons country standard Once A Day, led by Graham Lee, at what one can only suspect was the end of a very, very long day). In The Pines has often been likened, in terms of both songwriting quality and spirit, to Bob Dylan and The Bands The Basement Tapes, and it is not unduly flattered by the comparison.
This re-mastered reissue also makes clear that In The Pines, far from being a perverse diversion, occupies a logical position in The Triffids canon. Its relationship to Born Sandy Devotional was always explicit, in its manufacture amid the very landscape Born Sandy Devotional painted, and in the appearance of Born Sandy Devotional the song, which was omitted from the album with which it shared a name. What is fascinating about this reissue beyond, of course, it being a bunch of great songs recorded by a shockingly great rocknroll band – is that In The Pines is properly revealed as the sketchbook from which The Triffids would create their most opulent, most ambitious album, Calenture.
There was at least one hint of this on the original edition of In The Pines.- One Soul Less On Your Fiery List, a melody as graceful as its title was cumbersome, reappeared on Calenture as Hometown Farewell Kiss.
This reissue reveals that the In The Pines sessions yielded three more songs that were held over for Calenture – A Trick Of The Light, Blinder By The Hour, Jerdacuttup Man. On the long drive home from Ravensthorpe and the (only marginally) longer flight back to Europe, The Triffids must have believed that they secreted considerable magic up their sleeves.
They did. Abetted by producer Gil Norton (later to work with Pixies, Counting Crows and Foo Fighters, among others) and occasional member Adam Peters, The Triffids sculpted an astonishing collection of gorgeous, glorious glacial pop songs, evocative of approximate contemporaries like U2 and Echo & The Bunnymen, as well as of the 70s-vintage orchestral pop standards written by Jimmy Webb for Glen Campbell. Calenture, repackaged with an extra disc of demo recordings, was named after an arcane term for sunstroke; the albums bewildering failure to shift copies by the million suggested that that the record-buying public had fallen prey to precisely this affliction. Calenture roared into life with its opening track and first single, Bury Me Deep In Love, a soaring ballad that still deserves to be remembered for more than soundtracking the wedding of Harold and Madge on Neighbours.
Despite starting with the bar set so stratospherically high,Calenture did not waver. A Trick Of The Light blossomed into a feather-delicate pop classic reminiscent of fellow under-rated Antipodeans The Go Betweens. Jerdacuttup Man McCombs channeling of the internal monologue of a centuries-dead British Museum exhibit -drew from Celtic folk roots planted deep beneath the surface sheen of the albums production.
Holy Water, set to a shuffling drum machine, hinted at the always restless Triffids interest in electronica, something explored further on the newly included b-side Love The Fever (and on as-yet-regrettably-unreleased covers of Madonnas Into The Groove and Pet Shop Boys Rent). Save What You Can, the albums closing track for which a new video has been shot -is the perfect signoff, definitive David McComb, both ragingly passionate and coolly laconic. Time is against us, he croons, even love conspires to disgrace us, and things being what they are. . .
Two very, very different albums from one very, very different band –
and two chances to buy records this astonishing is one more than anyone should need.
Describing the content of the reissues, the bands Evil Graham Lee says:
In the pines has been remixed from the original 8track tapes by Bruce Callaway who produced (after the fact) and mixed the original album. He had carried around the three reels of tape for 20 years partly because he always wanted to remix. So, in a sense, he was waiting for my call. The tracks have been given the benefit of modern mixing technology and sound better than the original in many ways. We have incorporated five tracks not on original album and there’s a full version of the song born sandy devotional that was faded out after a minute on the original.
Calenture – disc (a) is original album (remastered) + 5 b side tracks from singles of the time all produced by Victor Van Vugt. Disc (b) is demo versions of all Calenture songs except Holy water and Unmade Love, for which no decent demos exist.
Release date: 5 February 2007
Cat No.s: In The Pines REWIGCD25
THE TRIFFIDS: WORDS OF FLUFF AND VALIDATION
by Bill Drummond
I got an email the other day asking me if I would write some kind words and validation to help them sell records. The them was The Triffids, the Australian band that found critical acclaim and not much else, in the 80s. Kind words and validation proffered by the critics back then didnt help them sell records and I dont know if ones by me, will now.
The reason why I have been asked, is not because I have written glowingly about The Triffids in the past, but because I worked with them, using them as a backing band on an album that I made in 1986, called The Man. This record sold less than any record that the Triffids ever made, but when I then went on to sell a few million records around the globe, in another guise and musical universe, this seemed to give my opinions on things some sort of standing.
Now, I was never a big fan of The Triffids, never had more than a couple of their records; only saw them play live the once and that was because I was doing a number with them.
But, and this is a major BUT, in David McComb they had every thing you could ever want from a dead rock star. And we need dead rock stars more than we need living ones. Some dead rock stars are crap at it, the bloke out of INXS and Freddie Mercury are shit at it, but David McComb is perfection. He is almost as good as Nick Drake, but we are getting a bit bored with Nick Drake now, so we want somebody new. But new dead rock stars dont come along too often, so we have to find old ones that have died some years ago. Ones were the patina of time enhances the way we see them, where myth and legend have taken root, grown and entwined around there CV.
The reason why David McComb, is such a perfect dead rock star, is that he failed in his life time, but left a pristine body of work behind that was all about loss and longing, about failed relationships and love gone wrong. These are the themes we never tire of. From the Old Testament to Big Brother, it is what keeps us hooked. But it wasnt just his songs and his deep baritone voice, it was the way he looked, his gaunt good looks and lanky frame. There was something about his aura that made it seem that he had lived in other centuries as well as our own. Of course the band provided the perfect back drop to his tales of woe and deceit, Evil Graham Lee in particular giving it that wide open sweep of a sound with his peddle steel guitar.
As I noted above, you may be a bit bored with Nick Drakes three albums and once the Ian Curtis biopic is out you will be wanting to deny that you were ever into Joy Division, so go and get your self a copy of In The Pines or Born Sandy Devotional and be the first on your patch and generation to get into the greatest dead rock star to ever come out of the out back.
Bill Drummond 23 June 2006