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on 31 May 2010
Ah the Triffids. What can you say about the Triffids? - one of those great bands which never got what they deserved? I suppose so; they would have certainly made Top of the Pops more interesting during the 80's, but really they were never destined for world-conquest. Can you honestly see David McComb doing a Bono? I bow to no one in my admiration for McComb - in my opinion one of the great song-writers (certainly lyricists) of the last 50 years, but, deep down, you know his demons were not the sort to be assuaged by `success'.

McComb's songs are those of the bruised romantic, constantly losing out in love, taking the wrong road, pining for what he once had but can never have again; and always there lurks in the background a cold, pitiless nature, waiting to pass its judgement and take what is owed. For me that sense of another harsher, more elemental world is what makes them THE great Australian band; McComb had been on that Lonely Stretch, he'd driven the Wide Open Road.

Quite frankly anything by the Triffids is worth hearing but this album is the `one', the one that everyone should own and listen to and wonder at; a suite of depressing, exhilarating, frightening, astonishing songs. From the opening dizzying swoop of `The Seabirds' to the closing wistful `Tender Is The Night' there's simply no let-up. On this version there are some extras, and, as I say, anything by them is worth listening to, but it's the original ten songs that matter, that are the reason that you really should own this.

Like all great bands the Triffids' music is hard to describe but instantly recognisable, a bit country, a bit folky, a bit 80's new-wavey, who cares - it's Triffid music. McComb found the perfect band, not interested in showy look-at-me playing, just giving everything they could to make his songs live. And they do.

Do yourself a favour and get it; it'll probably take a few listens to sink in, but stick with it, it'll more than repay the effort.
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on 3 December 2005
Passing the CD cabinet of my brother I picked up Born Sandy Devotional. The album has been tucked away in my collection for many years unlistened to. I borrowed the CD and haven't stopped playing it since.
Sometimes I listen to old favourites with trepidation. Is it as good as it sounded then? This album screams yes. This was their last on the independent circuit before being snatched by the big boys to record the grandiose "Calenture". Feted by the music press but never reaching reaching a wide audience this is simply a great album of wonderfully crafted songs.
The sound is rich full and grand. "Stolen Property" has to be one of the greatest rock ballads ever while "Wide Open Road","Tender is the Night" and "The Seabirds" come a close second for pure meoldy. None of the other tracks act as fillers and just demonstrate the variety of styles this band could play. Only the Triffids could write a song about a chicken killer.
I read on the internet only last week that David McComb the songwrite died in 1999. Very Sad.
If you like your rock hard then forget it. If you like great songs sometimes with full strings others pared down to minimalist content then this is for you. If you are happy listening to Nina Simone as to Nick Cave, Frank Sinatra , Costello or Blur then trust me and buy this album.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 7 January 2007
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..."
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VINE VOICEon 29 April 2006
I find myself when reviewing certain albums by certain bands using the words "Criminally neglected" a lot. That's probably because I review a lot of bands who are criminally neglected, not that their being criminally neglected would stand up in court like ....but it should. Anyway a particularly pertinent example of this is The Triffids.

The very first review I wrote for Amazon was for The Traffics "Calenture", a sumptuous collection of bruise deep love songs that is one of my favourite things ever. The album that preceded that while lacking "Calenture,s" blue eyed opulent romanticism was "Born Sandy Devotional " which in it's own more arid yet starkly quixotic way is just as superb. Some would even say it's superior. I would contest them on that but not too vociferously.

The late Davis McComb was a truly gifted performer and writer obsessed with the vastness and landscape of his native Australia .Though this album was actually recorded in London it virtually reeks of the outback .Very rarely does one album so tantalisingly encapsulate the ambience , odours and textures of the geography that inspired it. More than any travel documentary "Born Sandy Devotional" imbibes the listener in what it would be like to experience the places these songs exist in. And what songs they are.

"Seabirds" is one the great opening numbers of an album. "No foreign pair of dark sun glasses can ever shield you from/ the light that pierces your eyelids /the screaming of the gulls". This song enveloped in pedal steel and ominous strings radiates dramatic friction and the lyrics have that ambiguous yet elegiac frisson that McComb seemed to produce at will. "Estuary Bed" follows with more lush pedal steel from Graham Lee and a beautiful languorous middle eight and yet more memorable couplets. "I know your shape/ our limbs entwined/I know your shape, remember mine." "Chicken Killer" has tumultuous guitar and is considered by some as a weak point of the album but it acts as a more buoyant bridge to the emotionally wracked fare that's to come. "Tarrilup Bridge" is a concise wrought suicide note leading to "Lonely Stretch", an epic road song with more dramatic bilious backing seething like cockroaches on a soiled mattress. "Wide Open Road "has McComb hunting down an ex -lover and her new man. "The Sky was big and empty/my chest filled to explode" he intones over hypnotic spiralling percussion. The swaggering chorus of "Life Of Crime" belies it mixture of regret and incipient desire while "Personal Things" is another haunting lament for someone who isn't there anymore, the albums emotional thematic hub. "Stolen Property" while undoubtedly the albums overwhelming blockbuster is a tremendous song, yet it falls momentarily into over wrought melodrama before the tender and touching brilliance of McCombs vocal for the songs conclusion. "Tender is the Night( The Long Fidelity )" is the clumsily titled closer, sung by Jill Birt who isn't a particularly gifted vocalist but her wispy tones quite suit the songs fragile emanation and the way David McComb weaves his way into the song is just magical.

There are extra tracks promised for this album which makes it a must in my house ( I've always owned this on vinyl ) and there are , I believe, plans to re-release their entire back catalogue over the next 18 months with more extra tracks and other impossibly exciting stuff. About ruddy time if you ask me. Few bands do/did organic fervid rock music as well as The Triffids and in David McComb they had one of the most compelling sages on loves choppy waters with a voice to pound your heart like a punch bag. To paraphrase the great man -those drums will roll off in your forehead, those guns will go off in your chest.
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on 29 November 2013
Perhaps it was because The Triffids tried a little too hard to break through into the mainstream - in some of their later records the romance descends into gooeyness. But I think the real reason Born Sandy Devotional didn't gain a wider appeal is simply that it's too good. People just don't expect so much from a record: such a wonderfully evocative blend of love, tragedy and poetry. They particularly don't expect this from Australia - it upsets all the prevailing stereotypes. It is a beautiful record, though: the title, the cover, and each of the songs combine together perfectly. How many albums really hang together as the one work of art, and how many groups are not best enjoyed by buying their greatest hits - very few. My favourite song is Lonely Stretch: it is so sexy and set against a landscape so wide and empty that it is sinister. The version that was recorded for John Peel brings out all of the edginess and passion of this track, but even if you can only get hold of The Triffids' own production you're still onto a really good thing
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on 26 August 2011
The Triffids: Born Sandy Devotional

What makes a great album great? Many things, but one is the perfect blending of words and music to support and enhance each other.

Which brings us to Born Sandy Devotional, the third album by Ozzie band The Triffids, a 6 piece from Perth, WA, based around the singing and song-writing of David McComb, and featuring Martyn Casey before he became a Bad Seed, who fetched up in Blighty to seek their fame and fortune. The album was released in 1986, and bought by next to no-one. This is a great shame, as you all missed out. Produced by Gil Norton, who worked on The Bunnymen's Ocean Rain and so no stranger to biiiiiig sounds, it is one of the most wide-screen, epic, positively Cinemascope albums of that or any other decade. It's by no means a happy album, with broken relationships, resentment, revenge, threats of violence, suicide, longing, loss and despair oozing out from every song, biblical imagery applied as necessary, and huge desert landscapes playing as important a role as the characters lost within them. This marriage of the vast sound and the imagery is part of what makes the album great.

The sound, like The Bunnies, is somewhat Doors/Velvets influenced but with rather more interesting uses of instruments: the steel guitars of "Evil" Graham Lee being a crucial component, colouring and enhancing the songs, by turn menacing or haunting; the vibraphones on "The Seabirds", "Estuary Bed" or "Tarrilup Bridge" adding subtle rhythmic inflections; the harrowing string arrangement on "Lonely Stretch"; the rhythm section of Casey and Alsy McDonald mostly eschew conventional rock 4/4 timing in favour of something looser, with Casey tending to nail the pulse and tempo of the song while McDonald makes the drums more of a melodic instrument.

Then there're McComb's words. The best known song must be "Wide Open Road", which was seized upon as a sort of theme tune by a number of ex-pat Ozzies, and it gives a flavour of the album as a whole, with a sound in keeping with its title and its lyrics telling of loss, jealousy, a desire for revenge and retribution, all delivered in McComb's wracked, tortured baritone, placing the listener squarely in the protagonist's lonely world. These themes continue through the likes of "Lonely Stretch" (the title's a bit of a clue) and "The Seabirds", detouring into images of death in "Chickenkiller" and then suicide in "Tarrilup Bridge", sung in a wavering, affecting, manner by keyboardist Jill Birt, before reaching what is for me the highpoint of the album, "Stolen Property", reeking of separation, confusion, disdain for an ex, a struggle to accept loss, then ultimately looking towards a new future. The album closes with "Tender is the Night", again sung by Jill Birt, with its, surely autobiographical, description of "a gentle young man, I cannot say for certain the reasons for his decline".

McComb had problems with alcohol and heroin use which contributed to his death in 1999...
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on 3 October 2000
Of course the eighties were all about image , fashion and clever management. Well nobody told Australia it seems because , along with the Go-Betweens' "Liberty Belle" , the triffids showed the world what they could be listening to with this majestic record. Music lovers starved of beauty could feel happy that someone out there was recording songs to fill the soul. Tracks like "Wide open road" seem to point to the overwhelming vastness of the Outback. Others capture the loneliness that such freedom can bring and "Let's go out tonight" remains one of the most painful songs I've ever heard. While other Triffids albums are easier to get into or more intriguing , none captures the feeling of growing up in a small Australian coastal town as authentically or as personally as this. Essential listening.
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on 16 May 2006
Like those other neglected Australians The Go-Betweens, The Triffids were critically acclaimed but failed to break through to the big time. Both bands deserved to be massive & tragically both have lost a singer/songwriter before their time. This is a forgotten 80s classic which deserves its reissue & hopefully will gain a few more fans. The songwriting & musicianship is excellent, both epic & intimate in a way that few bands could get near. Buy it & you won't regret it!
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on 1 August 2004
The word classic is bandied about far too often with regard to popular music, usually just an alternative to 'old and popular', but here is a classic that genuinely lives up to its name and, whilst old(-ish), was and is certainly not that popular. David McComb's doomed romantic was the perfect front for music of this sort (not that there is that much else out there that sounds like this). And its a music full of contradictions: epic and personal, expansive yet claustrophobic, its themes and settings undoubtedly Autralian but touching on the universal. The songs themselves are a real mix, from the epic Wide Open Road, to the eerie Tarrilup Bridge, from the heart-breaking Stolen Property to the thunderous Lonely Stretch... demonstrating the Triffids' range of musical skills and stylings at every turn.
This album was realeased to critical acclaim when it debuted back in 1986 and it seemed at the time that Australia was the centre of some alternative musical universe.... and ruling it were the holy trinity of The Go-Betweens, Nick Cave and The Triffids. The former two have gone on to greater glory and long-term career success, but with the death of McComb in a car accident a few years back that will never now happen for the Triffids. Do your record collection a favour, make the world a better and bigger place and buy this album , cherish it, tell your friends about it.... and when you listen to it raise a glass to the memory of one of rock's great lost romantics.
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on 17 June 2006
It's Hats Off ! and a great big thank you to Domino Records for helping get some long overdue attention and (hopefully) sales for this most excellent band. This is the first in a program of re-issues and it is an absolute masterpiece , one of the greatest albums i've ever heard and , yes , a "long lost classic".Up there in the 80's canon with The Queen Is Dead and Rum , Sodomy And The Lash. So bloody buy it ! Let's hope In THe Pines is coming soon because that's just as good. Beautiful stuff. David McComb R.I.P.
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