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A Box of Chocolates with no rubbish fillings,
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This review is from: The Triffids Present... The Black Swan (Audio CD)
Much as I love Born Sandy Devotional and Calenture, my favourite Triffids album was always, heretically, The Black Swan. And here is the re-issue at last, now incorporating additional tracks ditched by the record company to slim the project down to a single LP rather than the intended sprawling double album. Despite the organic, holistic, flowing ambience of Born Sandy Devotional which had been conceived as a proper album (rather than a collection of songs) there were a couple of tracks that just didn't do it for me - though the rest of the album is awesomely brilliant, just so you know I'm not a complete heathen.
But I remember vividly the first time I listened to the The Black Swan. I was, not to sound too much a sensitive wilting girly, in a swoon of rapture as it progressed. It started off with the hazy shimmer of Too Hot To Move Too Hot Too Think then segued smoothly into the lulling snapshot of American Sailors, which blended into the relaxed semi-rap of Falling Over You by which time I was really, I was really...Stop..I was stunned with its brilliance. By the end the album had encompassed the novelty jauntiness of Bottle of Love with it's comedy whistle effect, the jazzy, skittering Butterflies into Worms, the propulsive One Mechanic Town, sweet pop of Goodbye Little Boy, an Edenic lullaby (Fairytale Love), a waltz, an opera singer, sequenced drum patterns! What was not love?
I recall that the critical feeling at the time was that all this variety was just pastiche which lacked depth and sincerity. This seemed far too po-faced a response to me. It's no surprise to read in Phil Kakulas's sleeve notes that for this record Dave McComb's principal was "The song comes first". So if it required lap steel or monster bass or Casio keyboards or glockenspiel and bazouki then so be it. It's a celebration of the multiplicity of the pop song. I can understand that the variety of styles would mean that some people would not like certain songs, like a box of choccies with different centres. But for me that's part of the appeal. I have always relished this approach, right back to what I presume was the first exercise in such musical eclecticism, The Turtles Battle of the Bands album. This is not to say I don't have my favourites; New Years Greetings is a stone classic McComb song, I love the perfect pop simplicity of Goodbye Little Boy with Jill Birt's winsome vocal, and the romany/Eastern European accordion fest The Crown Prince and the sinister funereal love/death litany of Blackeyed Susan and...and...
But really this is one of those rare albums I can play all the way through without having to skip a single track. With the addition of the extra songs there is unfortunately now one exception, namely the cover Can't Help Falling In Love. It's done in Spector meets Dion style and it gets on my wick; I'd have preferred another McComb original. The other songs are much more welcome, Go Home Eddie and Shell of the Man in particular. There's also an additional disc of demos and here there is some less essential stuff, but for a fan it's still fascinating. I am particularly taken with the the even more desolate and mournful take of Good Fortune Rose and I can listen to as many different versions of New Years Greetings as Evil Graham Lee can unearth. Anyway what I'd like now please is one final album gathering together any other unreleased Triffids-era songs and a re-issue of McComb's solo album plus singles.