The Triffids Born Sandy Devotional / In The Pines / Calenture

The ’80s were a decade when Australian bands were beginning to come into their own, even if that wasn’t reflected commercially. Artists like Nick Cave and the Go-Betweens were releasing music that was hugely influential but some have been forgotten, such as the Triffids (headed by the late David McComb). Despite the best intentions of the music press, the Triffids never found their audience. With a sound that was darker than the Go-Betweens’ yet more accessible than Cave’s, they inhabited a hinterland that made them more enigmatic and stark. Their early releases went almost unnoticed outside Australia, but that all changed with Born Sandy Devotional. Originally released in 1986, it has long been regarded as the band’s best album. Moody and atmospheric, it tells tales of doomed characters in bleak scenarios but isn’t the gloomy record it might seem like. While it revels in darkness, songs like "Lonely Stretch” and "Personal Things” possess a timeless quality that makes it hard to believe that this is 20 years old. The nine bonus tracks are a mixed bag, ranging from songs that were cut from the album to poorly recorded demos. In The Pines was recorded in a woolshed in Australia while the band waited for Born Sandy Devotional to be released. During five days, they recorded 19 songs onto eight-track. What was thought of as a stopgap has some of the band’s best work, some of which shows up on later records. While the original album dropped six songs, five of them are reinstated here and despite the somewhat rudimentary location, In The Pines never sounds like it was recorded in a shed. 1987 saw the release of their major label debut, Calenture. Unfortunately it suffered from the studio sheen that hinders many mid-’80s albums; the production sounds dated but the songs are strong enough to survive. With a strong folk influence, the band used Irish pipes and other wind instruments to complement their already unique arrangements. The real revelation comes with the addition of a second disc, which reassembles the original album using demos and rehearsals, stripping Calenture down to what it might have been. These three albums should guarantee the Triffids’ place in musical history, but there are still other gems waiting in the wings. It is a shame McComb isn’t around to finally receive the praise he richly deserves.

(Domino, www.dominorecordco.us) (Domino)