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1987's cult classic...,
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This review is from: Calenture (Audio CD)
Warners have certainly signed many an alternative outfit from the late 80s to the early 90s - on their various imprints you find such bands as The Replacements, They Might Be Giants, Husker Du, The Flaming Lips, REM, Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, The Jesus & Mary Chain, American Music Club, Echo & the Bunnymen, Uncle Tupelo, Primal Scream, The Smiths (who imploded...) & Jane's Addiction. Amid all these acts lurked Australian band The Triffids - sadly one of those great cult bands known only to a cult devotional audience - see Big Star, The Only Ones, The Go-Betweens, The Vaselines, The Auteurs, Felt, Crime & the City Solution, Beat Happening, The Chameleons, The Chills...
I was introduced to the Triffids by the compilation 'Australian Melodrama' which I picked up for the tidy sum of one english-pound - as the name was familiar and I thought of bands like The Go-Betweens & The Saints (though I'm sure I was confusing Thin White Rope with the Triffids at this point!) 'Australian Melodrama' is a great compilation - featuring such joys as 'Hell of a Summer', 'Wide Open Road' & 'Raining Pleasure' it shows that their career from 1978 to 1989 was great - even if the Stephen Street-produced LP was a bit tame in the same way Microdisney's last few albums were (...as great as those are...)
The stand out tracks on 'AM' were those numbered 10 to 15 - six songs that stemmed from 1987's 'Calenture' - so the album proper needed to be owned. & how could you not want an album at this rude price with one of the greatest covers known to man?
'Calenture' itself is defined as 'a tropical delirium of sailors, who imagine the sea to be green fields' - which certainly fits with the transcendental feeling this record invokes (...one of those albums I like to wander round listening to on hills - but not that horrible BIG music like U2, The Waterboys, The Alarm & all that bowel-porridge). Those six songs familiar from the compilation are all present, correct and fantastic - the opening 'Bury Me Deep in Love', 'A Trick of the Light', 'Unmade Love', 'Jerdacuttup Man', bleak adieu 'Save What You Can' ("...The final time we touch...the end at hand...") and my personal favourite 'Hometown Farewell Kiss', which is anthemic in the greatest way: "Higher, let the flames grow higher/Erase my name from your lips as we kiss/Higher, let the flames grow higher/Now there's one soul less on your fiery list..." 'Hometown Farewell Kiss' is one of those songs like the Flaming Lips' 'Do You Realise?', Beat Happening's 'Indian Summer', 'Holland,1945' by Neutral Milk Hotel, 'From a Silver Phial' by Gene Clark, and 'Uncertain Smile' by The The that make it great to be alive...
The great news is that every other track beyond the six I knew is equally great - 'Kelly's Blues' sounding like The Go-Betweens covering the few decent songs the Adventures recorded, while the double-whammy of 'Holy Water' and 'Blinder By the Hour' fit with the theme of the album and that killer title. The production by Gil Norton (Belly, The Pixies, Throwing Muses, the Bunnymen) is excellent, as are the string arrangements by Adam Peters/Robert McComb - imagine the Go-Betweens on a Scott I to IV tip if you like!
'Calenture' remains one of those great albums of the late 80s alongside such joys as '39 Minutes', '16 Lover's Lane', 'Especially for You', 'Life's Rich Paegent', 'Engine', 'Strangeways, Here We Come', 'House Tornado', 'Tim', 'Dum-Dum', 'Ultra Vivid Scene', 'Mother Juno' & 'Warehouse (Songs & Stories).' Sadly principal songwriter and lead vocalist David McComb would tragically die young - though his solo recordings post-Triffids are equally vital and worth tracking down (like Robert Forster & Rowland Howard he recorded a solo-LP with Mick Harvey - which reminds me that Martyn Casey was once a Triffid and is now a Bad Seed). 'Calenture' is a great great album from a great great band who very much deserve to be rediscoved posthumously...