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The Triffids - Born Sandy Devotional

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Artist: The Triffids

Album: Born Sandy Devotional

Label: Domino

Review date: Oct. 17, 2006

Many people consider The Triffids to be one of the most underrated Australian bands of the 1980s. Frontman David McComb was an undeniably talented songwriter and was endowed with a deep and powerful voice that recalled Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed and frequently took on a Nick Cave-like snarl. While the band was popular overseas and garnered the support of famed BBC host John Peel, they never caught on stateside. This reissue of their definitive album, Born Sandy Devotional, stands to introduce the band to a new audience, but frankly I doubt that they’re going to catch on the second time around.

There are many things to like about the album, from the huge string arrangements to the beautiful pedal steel parts and especially the evocative songwriting, which is to some extent in the vein of fellow Aussies The Go-Betweens. Unfortunately, everything is marred by the album’s extremely dated production. The songs are drenched in horrible reverb. Reverb on everything. So much reverb that it’s difficult to tell the difference between the instruments that are real and those that are synthesized approximations. I wish I could overcome my complete aesthetic revulsion to the production style, but the bulk of the album drifts way too far into Midnight Oil territory for my taste.

The bonus tracks, on the other hand, show a side of the band that’s much more appealing to my ears. They’re mostly demos, so they're less polished and reveal more grit and character. The backing is either very sparse or completely absent, which really highlights McCombs’ awesome voice; on some of the a cappella songs he almost sounds like Ian Curtis. If only the potentially great songs that make up Born Sandy Devotional had been recorded like this rather than egregiously overproduced, the album might’ve really stood the test of time.

By Rob Hatch-Miller

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