The Triffids - Wide Open Road: The Best Of The Triffids
The Triffids seem to be, in the tradition of Big Star and The Velvet Underground, a band that has gathered weight in the years following their demise.
Albums usually have an internal cohesion, deliberately designed, carefully sequenced and mixed. This is sometimes missing from retrospectives such as this - a one-CD alternative to the 8-disc boxset Come Ride With Me - however skillfully compiled they may be. It seems funny, though, to find almost everyone going on about how much of an albums band The Triffids were, and venerating Born Sandy Devotional in particular, and then find a disc like this to deal with. Must be a last button-push to really, finally, try and get them some big attention. Reasonably priced, too.
Anyway, there are two main ways to put together a ‘Best Of’: 1) chronologically, which often helps to trace what professional rock critics call a group’s ‘development’; or: 2) non-chronologically, but structured in a way that tries to impose cohesion after the fact, hopefully yielding an album that flows better, but risks battering disparate periods against one another. Wide Open Road is in the latter category, and is all of a piece: epic, widescreen, folk-pop, employing a range of instruments (violin; eastern-style strings on 'Red Pony' and strings in general elsewhere; pedal steel from ‘Evil’ Graham Lee') not completely unlike Ocean Rain-era Echo and The Bunnymen, albeit with late singer/songwriter David McComb’s heartbreaking sense of personal trial and redemption (and Australianism) replacing any notion of European gothic melodrama or surrealism. You can add a little bit of The Go-Betweens to that, but The Triffids are better. McComb’s voice does sound, funnily enough, like a mix of Robert Forster and – very occasionally - Nick Cave.
The songs are menacing, delicate, melancholy and redemptive. They always seem to come from, as noted, a very personal vision, and the observations never seem second-hand or by rote. Above all, the greatest triumph of the band seems to be that they made music that could communicate bleak subjects without ever becoming overly bleak itself, somehow managing to be frequently uplifting without resorting to cheap tactics. It seems to come from a man who, despite certain personal circumstances, was not easily defeated.
These are blooms that deserve to be handled gently and treasured for what they are.