I don’t remember exactly how many times I saw The Triffids live, around fifteen I’d guess, but I do know that the first time was in a sparsely populated, subterranean, Romford night-club in 1984. Also in attendance that night was early champion John Peel. By 1989 I’d seen them headline prestigious London venues such as The ICA, The Town & Country Club and both The Shaw and Dominion Theatres. The world, it seemed, was their oyster, but despite critical praise and a devoted fanbase, the mass sales, required by major label Island, never materialised and the band drifted back to their native Australia, then drifted apart.

In May 1994 David McComb returned to the UK to play a handful of shows in support of his only solo album, ‘Love of Will’. I caught McComb, accompanied by his band The Red Ponies (featuring a pre-Bad Seeds Warren Ellis on psychedelic fiddle), in a cramped and sweaty Borderline, where they played a blistering set, comprising tracks from the solo album, classic Triffids material and well chosen covers from the likes of The Velvet Underground, Ray Charles, The Beatles and Prince.

It’s almost too heartbreaking to dwell on David McComb’s subsequent fate for too long. After undergoing a heart transplant at the age of 33, his final three years were spent plagued by ill health and personal demons. He recorded more music, but much of this remains officially unreleased. David died on February 2nd 1999, two weeks short of his 37th birthday. Gone, but never forgotten. (JC adds – this ICA has been timed to coincide with David’s birthday – he would have turned 56 tomorrow)

The Triffids left a towering body of work and selecting just ten pieces from it for this compilation has been a painful task. I’ve attempted to showcase the band’s versatility, from the snappy pop of ‘Beautiful Waste’ and ‘Trick of the Light’ through to ‘Lonely Stretch’ and ‘Stolen Property’, altogether darker offerings that often became even more intense in concert. I’ve also tried to make it a damned good listen. I hope you enjoy it.

1 Trick of the Light (Calenture 1987)
2 Red Pony (Treeless Plain 1983)
3 Bright Lights Big City (BBC Session 1985)
4 Jesus Calling (Raining Pleasure 1984)
5 Lonely Stretch (Born Sandy Devotional 1986)

6 Stolen Property (Born Sandy Devotional 1986)
7 Beautiful Waste (7″single, 1984)
8 Falling Over You (The Black Swan 1989)
9 Hell of a Summer (Treeless Plain 1983)
10 Monkey On My Back (BBC Session 1985)



  1. At a minimum, Born Sandy Devotional and Calenture should be on everyone’s shelf. Wish I could say I saw them 15 times… or even once. Well done, Swede.

  2. Glad someone did an ICA on this band because I totally missed The Triffids when they were around. (I did get to play the Borderline last year, but it wasn’t what you’d call cramped and sweaty with adoring fans.) Nice one, Swede, this one looks really interesting.

  3. Well done on this post TS. Listening to the first couple of tracks, I think I like them. With a name like McComb he sounds as if he is of Celtic extraction so makes sense!

  4. Love this band and sad i only saw them once. The messy but inspired black swan is my favourite especially the re released version with the full running order as DMc intended. As a result would have had to have new years greeting and too hot to move in their somewhere as well as the epic save what you can from calenture. Not heard some of the earlier ones so looking forward to listening

  5. Thanks for all the good vibes folks. I hope my selection inspires you to investigate the band further. There’s a bonus track over at my place today.

  6. You could have picked pretty much every track off Born Sandy Devotional. I have a particular love for Estuary Bed and Wide Open Road (there was a great road movie stage projection for that song when I saw them live in Edinburgh in ’86). Also Too Hot To Move, and the Hometown Farewell Kiss version on In The Pines. Mushroom Records managed to get some Triffids tracks played as background music on Neighbours in the 80s, which seemed jarringly surreal back then.

  7. Good job, Mr Swede. However as a Triffids compilation, just to nitpick a litle, it is flawed in that it should contain one Jill Birt sung track. Of course I’m jesting, well partly at least, but I’d suggest ‘Tender Is The Night’.

    I’ve actually seen the band 8 times, kind of in clumps. Came across them as support to the Bunnymen at the Barrowlands in 84 or 85 – twice in the same day as the Bunnies played a matinee as well as the evening set. Pretty sure that they played half of the ICA that day – even 30+ years on I have a strong memory of what they played. (Were you there, JC?)

    Regrettably they never reached Scotland to tour Born Sandy Devotional but we got 4 dates on the Calenture tour – I took in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Unfortunately I was in France for the Black Swan gig at the QMU a couple of years later but caught them in Kilburn – a huge venue (and I missed the last train back to my friend’s flat in SE London – but that’s another story!)

    I travelled to Belgium to see the surviving members play their first ‘tribute to Dave’ show in 2006. Wasn’t sure what it would be like but it was good if very emotional.

    That bloody ash cloud scuppered a visit to the next Belgian gig but I did finally see them playing ‘Born Sandy’ 18 months ago in Islington with 4 different singers taking Dave’s place and it was absolutely stunning. There’s a full gig from the same tour on the AB website:


  8. manicpopthrills – My favourite Jill Birt sung song is ‘Raining Pleasure’ , which was indeed high on the original longlist for the ICA. I was at the Islington show too – what a night that was. It was great to finally catch another of my heroes, Rob Snarski, on stage.

  9. Mike…..I missed the ‘Ocean Rain’ tour in 84. The gig was a Saturday night and I would have been too busy doing my usual stuff helping out at Strathclyde Students Union.

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