Current Issue #488

Fringe Review:
Truckload of Sky

David McComb

This tribute to late Triffids frontman David McComb is more than your average nostalgia hour, with a swag of unreleased material that captures much of what fans love about the singer songwriter’s work.

It’s a cliché to refer to The Triffids as underappreciated, but three decades after their demise it’s shocking that the the iconic Perth band’s music still remains the preserve of a select few. With a traditional rock core augmented by violin, organ, pedal steel, vibraphone and drum machine at various points, they bridged the gap between post-punk and indie.

An essential part of The Triffids’ appeal was always lead singer David McComb’s lyrics, richly poetic musings infused with wry humour and a thick seam of melancholy. Even as he sang them, his descriptions of the vast Australian landscape and endless summers seemed sepia-tinged and few compilation titles have better captured their subject material than Love In Bright Landscapes.

Truckload Of Sky is emphatically not a reunion outfit, though it does include a number of former Triffids and Blackeyed Susans members. Instead it’s a celebration of one of Australia’s most thoughtful and evocative songwriters, showcasing the songs McComb wrote between the Triffids’ demise and his own untimely death in 1999 (plus a few earlier cuts).

It’s intended as a celebration, though as proceedings begin there’s a somewhat reverential air at odds with McComb’s own laconic presence. Fortunately, as the night goes on both audience and band members relax into this collection of songs that have finally found their way onto record. McComb’s older brother and Triffids mainstay Rob McComb helms proceedings, overseeing a rotating cast of vocalists as well as switching between guitar and violin.

That Rob Snarski is heavily involved is no surprise given his long involvement with post-Triffids act The Blackeyed Susans. He was always a foil for McComb rather than a replacement, so JP Shilo comes closer to replicating McComb’s tone, mixing a swagger with a wry smile.

Clare Moore is a last minute replacement for drummer Mark Dawson and also takes on some of Angie Hart’s vocals in her absence. Much like the Triffids’ Jill Birt, her sweet voice acts as a foil to devastating lyrics  (“it’s second nature to hurt someone/ simplest thing is to treat them like dirt”) on the deceptively warm pop of Second Nature.

Kneel So Low is classic McComb, switching between a beach scene and the interpersonal politics of a relationship. But while the ballads showcase McComb’s lyrics and make plenty of space to enjoy the warm guitar tones (particularly “Evil” Graham Lee’s steel pedal), it’s when things speed up that the band really shines.

No Desire opens with an impulsive rush that never ceases, propelled forward by flourishes of organ and blues rock lines reminiscent of the Blackeyed Susans. And Enemy Mine from that band’s first album is a brute of a song, propelled by Shilo’s snarling swagger as it bristles and preens gloriously.

Raining Pleasure shows that The Triffids were always far more than a rock band before the show ends on a suitably wistful note with the classic AM country of The Good Life Never Ends. Written by McComb for Costar but never released, it’s introduced by Snarski as “one of Dave’s greatest songs.” That’s a crowded list, as we’re reminded by an encore featuring a brace of Calenture tracks. As the band segues from the booming rock of Unmade Love to the sweet twang and classic pop of Trick Of The Light, it’s a fitting reminder of just how versatile McComb (and the Triffids) was.

Truckload Of Sky was performed at RCC on Thursday 12 March

Alexis Buxton-Collins

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