This week we look back at classic album Born Sandy Devotional by The Triffids.
"I never considered myself to be particularly Australian at all. I just come from this bland suburb in Perth," David McComb, frontman and songwriter for The Triffids, told triple j in 1986.
Our survival has been a lot more dependent on travelling and complete self satisfaction with the music.The Triffids' David McComb, 1986
By this point his band had decamped to London, where they recorded their landmark second album Born Sandy Devotional.
Although McComb didn’t identify with any nationalistic sensibilities, listening to the record, you can’t help but feel the impact of the sweeping vastness of the Australian landscape throughout.
Though he conceded that his new home had an impact on the way he perceived himself and his life.
"You do learn more about yourself and what makes you different from other people when you go away," he said.
The fact that this sun drenched album manifested thousands of miles away in dreary London is not entirely surprising. Bands like The Birthday Party, The Go-Betweens and The Moodists had already taken the leap.
Opportunities to play at home were limited and The Triffids had long tired of having to contend with skinhead crowds in Perth, or seeking appreciative audiences in Sydney and Melbourne.
In London they found receptive ears. NME slapped the band on the front cover with the headline '1985: The Year of The Triffids'.
Born Sandy Devotional’s lyrics and sounds oozed a thick, summery haze that evoked sepia-toned beachside childhood memories. The Triffids discovered their own uniqueness through the making of this album.
"The band was just discovering a line up that I don’t think anyone else had used in that way – which was a combination of guitar, violin, organ, vibraphone – to set the lyrics or the stories of the songs against an atmospheric backing," McComb said.
Nowhere is this more keenly evidenced than in the spine chilling beauty of album highlight ‘Wide Open Road’ which remains a captivating listening experience 30 years on.
In his songs about loss and longing, McComb’s characters seek the warmth and surety of intimacy and yet with his defiant and imposing tone as narrator it seems as if it’s all too far out of reach.
Growing up in such a geographically isolated place like Perth must have contributed to the sense of solitariness which pervades so much of this album and in the maddening rapture and eeriness of lyrics such as '...the sky was big and empty, my chest filled to explode, I yelled my insides out at the sun, at the wide open road'.
When asked what success meant to him, McComb's reply speaks volumes about the passion he had for his art.
"It’s a completely overused term to me," he said. "It’s just become so vague as to mean nothing. It was never dependent upon our survival that we achieved making this much money or something like that. Our survival has been a lot more dependent on travelling and complete self satisfaction with the music."
Although acknowledged critically as an important Australian album, this record still feels underappreciated. With its rich sounds and poetic lyrical imagery, it truly sets itself apart as a uniquely Australian record. Three decades on, Born Sandy Devotional still looms large as a defining musical document.