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Wide Open Road (Best Of)

PLU: 9341004007147
Format - CD
Genre - Pop & Rock
Release Date - 16/04/10

Not yet reviewed.

Following the successful relaunch of this seminal band’s catalogue comes the long awaited ‘best of’, ‘Wide Open Road’. For any band this prolific and undeniably talented, any such compilation is instrinsically incomplete, but Wide Open Road ticks all the requisite boxes for the ardent fan and casual listener alike.

A smart, switched-on friend (and renowned songwriter) recently emailed me his list of the ‘Best Opening Lines’ of songs. Alongside great opening lines from Dylan’s “Highway 61”, Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”, he included “Well the drums rolled off in my forehead/And the guns went off in my chest”, the opening lines (if you ignore the whispered ‘2,3,4’) from The Triffids’ “Wide Open Road”... I replied to the email with some of my own - Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”, Paul Simonon’s (The Clash) “Guns of Brixton”, Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him” and “The Seabirds”, also by The Triffids: ‘No foreign pair of dark sunglasses/ will ever shield you from/The light that pierces your eyelids/The screaming of the gulls’... Our lists weren’t snobbish, hi-brow
or obscurist. They included recognised classics and well-argued favourites. And we both featured songs by The Triffids - and different songs at that...Eleven years after his death (in February, 1999), the songs of David McComb and the music made by The Triffids still lives, breathes and resonates - as evidenced by this collection and in the recent burst of interest in the band that has seen books/documentaries/reissues/box-sets/tribute performances... perhaps they are now finally getting their just desserts...For me, The Triffids had the perfect arc...They remind me of that great line by Jack Kerouac in On The Road, where he says “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”...
With The Triffids, the middle of the arc, the blue centrelight pop, where everybody goes “Awww!” is the song “Wide Open Road”, which is why it’s right that it’s the lead-off and title track of this collection (obscurity be damned!). But all around and before and after “Wide Open Road” were great moments of wildly varying colour and kind. Forming in Perth, Western Australia in the late 70s, around drummer Alsy McDonald and David McComb on guitars/vocals, the Triffids mutated through a number of different line-ups as they released a handful of crude cassette ‘albums’, compiling more than 80 - 90 songs. Graduating to vinyl, their 7” singles were naive gems, tracks like “Reverie” and “Spanish Blue” full of pop smarts and sharp lyrics but with a clumsy, awkward charm. “Beautiful Waste” was their first great song. By the time of their debut
album Treeless Plain, they had settled on their line-up of David McComb (vocals/guitar), Alsy McDonald (drums, vocals), Jill Birt (keyboards, vocals), Robert McComb (guitars, violin, vocals), Martyn P Casey (bass) - ‘Evil’ Graham Lee (pedal and lap steel, guitars, vocals) was to complete the definitive version of the band shortly after Treeless Plain. All across Treeless Plain, you can feel and smell the heat rising off the pavement of Perth and Sydney and the endless desert road connecting these two cities that The Triffids came to know so well. There’s a nascent, but very real claustrophobia and humidity in tracks like “Hell Of A Summer,” “Hanging Shed” and “Red Pony” counterpointed by Robert’s beautiful violin and Jill’s keys. If Treeless Plain had finally centred the band, they immediately jumped sideways for the brilliant jewel
of a mini-album, Raining Pleasure and then the country ‘side-project’ Lawson Square Infirmary. It became typical of the band. They would put down firm, powerful roots on a full length album and then jump all over the shop in between. It was probably maddening for those trying to draw a career plan (“And then these bands wonder why they’re not successful” you can hear a grizzled industry vet, whining), but for us fans, the schizophrenia of the ramshackle In The Pines, the bludgeoning Field Of Glass EP made The Triffids all the more colourful, exciting and certainly unpredictable.
For me, the epicentre/the high point of their arc/their masterpiece is the album Born Sandy Devotional. Its epic “widescreenstudio ambition” was perfectly pitched. “The Seabirds,” which opens the album, could well be McComb’s best song. The subtle strings, the pedal steel, the masterful touch of Alsy’s drums and the evocative guitar hook all brilliantly score a tragic, poetic lyric of broken heart/suicide. “Wide Open Road” stalks similar territory, the protagonist aches and despairs at a lover who has left him for another and McComb compares the emotional distance between the characters to the endless flatlands of his home state/country. Elsewhere, “Lonely Stretch” is a nightmare rollercoaster ride, like the best David Lynch film, all captured in five short minutes. “Stolen Property” touches on the very personal, suggesting self-doubt, McComb’s own journey away from the expectations of him, all artfully cloaked it in a more oblique frame. Critically-hailed and commercially-undervalued on its release, Born Sandy Devotional not only marks the arrival of McComb as a master songwriter (something now much recognised) but confirms The Triffids as a great, intuitive ensemble (something still underrecognised)...
The great argument between Triffids diehards would be whether Born Sandy Devotional or Calenture was their great work. For me, Calenture occasionally over-reaches, but it remains a great, powerful work, featuring the band’s best pop song in “Trick Of The Light” (the worldwide hit that should have been), the Jimmy Webb-meets-Otis Redding bravado of “Bury Me Deep In Love” and the perfect album closer, “Save What You Can”, a hymn to survival, a resigned, wistful glance in the rearview mirror. When the band played its final show in 1989, a low-key bow in soulless Canberra, Australia I hope they finished with this...Their final studio album was the ambitious, sprawling The Black Swan. Popular opinion on The Black Swan has McComb falling under the spell of rap and certainly there is a real lean towards rhythm/dub feels on many tracks, but it is
more the ambition and restlessness that had always defined them coming to bear. Perhaps they should have experimented with a few EPs between Calenture and The Black Swan as they had done previously, but again, as a fan, I love it for its tangents, its brave messiness...The studio recordings and the songs end up being the lasting document and the Triffids stand proud and tall on this measure. Their live shows are simply burnt in my memory, as visceral, intelligent, haunting, pretty, dark, breath-taking, petulant, sloppy, irresistible...kind of like “fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”
John O’Donnell
Primary Format - MusicCD
Music GenrePop
Music Genre PrimaryPop & Rock

Disc 1

  • 1. Wide Open Road
  • 2. Red Pony
  • 3. Reverie
  • 4. Beautiful Waste
  • 5. Hell Of A Summer
  • 6. Property Is Condemned
  • 7. Raining Pleasure
  • 8. The Seabirds
  • 9. Lonely Stretch
  • 10. Stolen Property
  • 11. Kathy Knows
  • 12. Bury Me Deep
  • 13. A Trick Of The Light
  • 14. Jerdacuttup Man
  • 15. Too Hot To Move
  • 16. Goodbye Little Boy
  • 17. New Years Greetings
  • 18. Save What You Can
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