Recorded in 1985, `Born Sandy Devotional' followed earlier releases `Treeless Plain' and `Raining Pleasure' heralding a major shift in the creativity and scope of songwriter David McComb and fellow Triffids' Evil Graham Lee, Martyn Casey, Jill Birt, Robert McComb, & Alsy Macdonald. Produced by Gil Norton (Doolittle, Ocean Rain) and the band, `Born Sandy Devotional' was recorded in London and probably should have been the record that introduced them to a wider audience. The Triffids were one of those culty acts in the 1980s that didn't break through and gain commercial success - see The Go-Betweens, Microdisney, The Comsat Angels, The Sound, Crime and the City Solution, American Music Club, Tuxeedomoon - but don't let that stop you now!!
I first heard the Triffids unknowingly - the gorgeous `Bury Me Deep in Love' was used in Neighbours, though failed to break through as a Neighbour-associated track had before in the case of Angry Anderson's lungburstingly dire `Suddenly.' I knew the name, though probably confused them with Thin White Rope or something, but it was purchasing a copy of compilation `Australian Melodrama' for 99p that put me on the path to their records. A fair amount of that compilation stems from this album, while all Triffids is good Triffids, it's probably this or `Calenture' that are their greatest moments. `Calenture' suffers from production of the time, which some dislike - despite my assurances they should put such concerns out of mind!!
The original 10-track album is fantastic, as great a way to spend 35-40 mins as any and one of those great albums from the 1980s, which was a great decade for music: Swordfishtrombones, Fables of the Reconstruction, Fried, Sign'O'the Times, Let It Be, Isn't Anything?, Secrets of the Beehive, Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express etc. Think about it!, or don't...so it's that common case that everything on this album is a highlight. Those wild literary lyrics that send those pictures as potent as the album cover into your mind. That music that seems huge, but is the right side of U2-style bombast (though I did think the vocals on `Lonely Stretch' - probably my favourite - sounded like early Jim Kerr! Apologies if I've insulted anyone!!).
Opener `The Seabirds' builds on the orchestral designs Norton was associated with from `Ocean Rain', it seems you can hear everything in here - country guitar, jazzy Waits drumming, chiming guitar that makes the Edge seem dumb as dumb can be. It gets better and better - `Estuary Bed', the catchy `Chicken Killer', the two Jill Birt lead vocals that remind me a bit of Moe Tucker & the Velvets (`Tarrilup Bridge', `Tender is the Night (The Long Fidelity)'. The second half opens with what is probably the Triffids' most well known song, `Wide Open Road', which Triffid (& current Bad Seed/Grinderman-member) Martyn Casey stated had become an anthem to backpackers the world over. Which fits with the song's perfect lyrics...
The Domino reissue, which has been meticulously overseen by Graham Lee and the rest of the band, not only presents the original album with a new improved sound but adds bonus tracks from the era, including the fantastic lost title track which somehow didn't make the album. There are great sleeve notes, both in the standard booklet and the 42-page booklet with the limited edition, featuring great information, handwritten lyrics, photos, and some interesting pointers including what David McComb/the band were reading at the time (Flannery O'Connor, The Last Tycoon, The Clown, The White Hotel) and showing some influences/ideals they were using as markers for this great album: lots of Tom Waits, Cohen's Avalanche, The Boss' Nebraska, From Her to Eternity, Happy Sad, Joy Division's Atmosphere, Little Creatures, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, and several of their own earlier joys I think all should track down...
2006 was a strong year for reissues - the original Nuggets, Faust IV, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Abracadabra, Paris 1919 etc - but Born Sandy Devotional is the one. One of those albums to live by. One of those albums to live to. All tracks written by David McComb. To be followed by In the Pines and the mighty Calenture. Bob Dylan is still wrong to say "Don't Look Back." After 1989's The Black Swan the band split, though there were releases by Blackeyed Susans and some classic solo releases from McComb, which I hope will follow in the next year or so once the Triffids' back-catalogue has been dealt with?
David McComb 17/2/62 - 2/2/99.
Listening to Born Sandy Devotional in 2007 he's never sounded more alive: "Never should have let that precious spirit escape..."