REVIEW: David McComb and a couple of school friends formed The Triffids in 1978.
The band grew out of the rubble of earlier projects – and early members came and went. But by 1982, The Triffids were a mostly stable line-up and becoming a fixture on the Australian pub and festival circuit.
The Triffids travelled relentlessly, driving the thousands of kilometres between Perth, Melbourne and Sydney a dozen times. They honed their craft and turned the heads of local critics. Within a couple of years, the charm and sustainability of being World Famous in Australia was exhausted – and The Triffids joined the age-old Aussie cultural migration to London.
In 1983, the band released their deathless debut album Treeless Plain. McComb’s songwriting and the band’s craft were on full display and the UK music press were in thrall.
At his best, McComb can find a sweet spot between the narrative Australiana of Paul Kelly and the death-sodden hell-scapes of Bad Seeds’ era Nick Cave. His songs are rooted in places and times – often his own childhood – but also as endlessly interpretable and subjective as the gothic literature McComb immersed himself in.
One producer, recounting the first time he encountered McComb, remembers him walking into the recording studio with a paperback copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. It’s a defining image of this complex, contrary man.
For fans of Australian band The Triffids, Jonathan Alley’s Love in Bright Landscapes is essential viewing.
Love In Bright Landscapes is Wellington-born film-maker Jonathan Alley’s biography and tribute to McComb and The Triffids. It is a terrific, heartfelt and necessary film that honours the man – and the band – even while Alley is turning up stories in which no mythology survives completely intact.
There’s a trove of restored 8mm and 16mm archive here, plenty of music and live performance clips and interviews with partners, family, bandmates and contemporaries – Paul Kelly included.
McComb emerges as a brooding, contradictory, near shamanic character – driven to create, even as he was doomed by his afflictions and addictions.
Love In Bright Landscapes is a wonderful piece of work. For fans of The Triffids, it is essential. And for anyone who needs to see how layered and nuanced an unadorned and chronological film can still be, this is an object lesson. Very recommended.
Love in Bright Landscapes is screening on Sky TV’s Rialto Channel on November 13 and 14. It is also available to stream now on DocPlay and rent from AroVision, Academy On Demand and iTunes.