The Domino reissue of the Triffids’ back catalogue continued last month with the Best of compilation ‘Wide Open Road’. (Keep reading for a chance to win ‘Wide Open Road’). Of far more interest to long term fans is the associated 10 (yes, that’s right, TEN) disc box set ‘Come Ride With Me’ which is stuffed to the gunnels with rarities (211 recordings in fact if you count the snippets of interviews). So it’s difficult to do justice to this compliation in a short(ish) piece, far less review it properly, but here’s the gist.
The first disc is simply ‘Wide Open Road’. Any ‘Best of’ is going to provoke debate and there are a few things I’d like to have seen included. But it’s a decent introduction to the band for anyone who doesn’t know them focussing as it does very much on the band’s better known material with only the inclusion of early single ‘Reverie’ being slightly unexpected. But it’s after that that things really get interesting.
Next up, the second disc is dedicated to the early singles and EPs. Now much of this isn’t new to the reissue programme- it partly duplicates the limited edition box set of the band’s first 6 vinyl singles and the Field of Glass EP has previously been released on CD as part of the ‘Beautiful Waste’ collection of EPs. However it is the first time on CD for most of the tunes and it’s useful to have the songs collected on one disk particularly as the CD includes the ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ single, on CD for the first time.
What is striking about the compilation is the range of styles that the band covered in a relatively short space of time from the whimsical ‘Farmers Never Visit Nightclubs’ to the thunderous ‘Field of Glass’ with many points in between.
There’s plenty of interest on that CD given that many of the tracks initially only had Australian releases. But the vinyl singles were nothing like the start of the story as, unusually, the Triffids had a lengthy pre-history even before they committed any material to vinyl. In fact there are no fewer than EIGHT tapes of original songs prior to ‘Treeless Plain’ and these are extensively documented on 3 of the remaining CDs. This offers a remarkable treasure trove of new material (around 70 different songs by my estimation) for all but the most committed of Triffids’ fans.
It’s fair to say that the first of the three discs, dedicated to the first four tapes, sounds like a different band. On a couple of listens, it’s difficult to associate these songs with the better known incarnations of the band as they sound much more influenced by then contemporary sounds than the band’s LPs were to be.
But the growth in the band is documented in detail over the next 2 CDs. Tapes 5 and 6 are included in full on one and by this stage some familiar songs, which would eventually be recorded for the Hot! LPs, can be heard. One surprise though is an early version of ‘Too Hot To Move, Too Hot To Think’ which wouldn’t be recorded until the band’s final LP ‘The Black Swan’. Whilst the arrangement is different, the song structure is remarkably similar to the released version,which begs the question why it took so long to emerge.
There’s a more fully formed Triffids on the third CD of the tapes featuring a selection from the Dungeon and Son of Dungeon tapes. Again a decent percentage of these songs were re-recorded either for the early singles or Treeless Plain and plainly the band is well on the way to becoming the one which would emerge on British shores in the second half of 1984.
The package also contains 3 live discs, as far as I know complete records of the shows concerned, and even though two of these were recorded during 1984 there is virtually no overlap between them. The first disc shows the band stretching their wings after the release of debut LP ‘Treeless Plain’ with most of the tracks from mini-LP ‘Raining Pleasure’, 2 songs from the subsequent ‘Field of Glass’ EP (albeit spread over 3 songs!), an early version of a song from third LP ‘Born Sandy Devotional’ and a handful of covers. It’s a great recording as is its successor recorded at the LSE later in ‘84, which documents the set that the band brought to the UK on their first visit.
Both discs illustrate the live power of the band which hadn’t been captured in the studio releases at that time and it’s not difficult to turn back the clock more than 25 years and get an inkling of the impact that the band made with the UK press.
The final live set was recorded in Melbourne after the release of ‘Calenture’ and showcases a number of these tunes in a good light. showcasing the band at what many would regard as the height of its powers. The live sets largely contain familiar material but are no less interesting for that.
The final two CDs are rarities compilations from across the years which includes covers, demos, live recordings, songs from pre-Triffids bands (such as Dalsy) to things like the Beatles cover done for an NME compilation. I’ve not had a chance to give much of these a listen yet but there’s more than a dozen different songs which aren’t available elsewhere.
This box set really is a labour of love and Domino deserve all sorts of kudos for delivering what must come close to a fans’ ideal package. And yet it isn’t the complete Triffids story – you need the full LPs for that – but it does a tremendous job of very clearly documenting the evolution of a remarkable band.
Here’s perhaps their best known song:
And if you fancy a chance of winning a copy of ‘Wide Open Road’ compilation then answer the following question:
Which country do the Triffids come from?
Send the answer to the email address on the right of the page by 12 noon BST on Monday 24th May for the chance to win the compilation.