Graham Reid | | 1 min read
At some time in the mid Nineties I spent an afternoon in Melbourne talking with David McComb, the former singer-songwriter with the Triffids then Blackeyed Susans. He was as intelligent as I had expected given the depth of his lyrics in both of those bands, but he was also hesitant, slightly wary and gun-shy, and I left wondering how he might survive the obvious dependencies he had.
Not long was the answer: he had a heart transplant in '96 but didn't give up his damaging ways (alcohol, heroin) -- but in one of those bitter ironies he was slightly injured in a car accident in '99 and died of ... well, his body just had so few resources to cope that the inevitable arrived too soon. He wasn't yet 37.
The Triffids -- especially their albums Born Sandy Devotional and In the Pines -- hold a special place in the hearts of many for the deeply lyrical quality (and pop smarts) which McComb brought. But my favourite was always Calenture of '87 which he also seemed especially fond of when I spoke to him, although later I read he'd dismissed it almost immediately on release as "too over the top".
Produced by Gil Norton (then hot with Echo and the Bunnymen and others) and released on Island in the UK, it seemed designed to take the Triffids to the greater international audience they deserved ("Slick sound to shake off obscurity" was one review heading). With the lead-off track Bury Me Deep In Love it should have done so -- but it failed to meet sales expectation, and seemingly in artistic merit if McComb was to be believed in the years thereafter.
That was McComb too: never quite satisfied.
Yet he should have been and perhaps only his alcoholism and insecurities fuelled self-doubt.
The strength -- and diversity -- of his songwriting is evident on this live tribute album subtitled "An evening with the songs of David McComb" on which the remaining Blackeyed Susans (and some Triffids), Diving Bell, Shackleton and other friends lined up to play his songs and raise money for a film of McComb's life Love in Bright Landscapes (named for a Triffids compilation) by Jonathan Alley and Danielle Karalus.
Many of McComb's lyrics are poetry -- and Sean M Whelan reads Behind the Garages of This Country (with the Mime Set providing the sonic landscape) as exactly that.
David McComb is long overdue his tribute. This -- with a moving, hidden track by poet Whelan after the previously unreleased and beautiful The Good Life Never Ends -- seems like a good start.
But the in-progress film should be the one.