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When I Close My Eyes, I Can Still See The Stars – Jill Birt E.P. review

I’ve discovered a few things that have surprised me during the life time of this blog but I’m not sure that many have been more surprising than the news that Jill Birt has released a limited edition solo E.P. ‘Still Life’.

For those of you who don’t know, Jill was the keyboard player and occasional vocalist in one of my all time favourite bands, the Triffids. The Triffids effectively ceased as an operational unit  in the early 90s but in one of their last major interviews, in the NME Jill stated a desire to be a pop star like Michael Jackson or Prince, unmanipulated, private and immune to the petty bitchery of the press.  (With the benefit of hindsight the use of Jackson in this context seems improbable).

Anyhow in the almost 20 years since the demise of the Triffids the Jill Birt solo career has never materialised as Jill has focussed on her post-Triffids career as an architect and on raising a family.

However the Triffids’ reunion in 2006 (when the surviving members reunited to pay tribute to band leader David McComb who died in 1999) seems to have re-ignited Jill’s interest in music. And the result is the ‘Still Life’ E.P. released in Australia in the summer.

I confess I wasn’t that struck by the first couple of plays of the E.P. but that’s perhaps not surprising as Jill’s songs in the Triffids tended not to be the dramatic showstoppers. But repeated listens reveal that ‘Still Life’ is definitely a grower as, even twenty years on, Jill’s vocals remain as sweet as ever.

There’s an undoubtedly a Triffids feel to the songs no doubt since the rhythm section on the record features Triffids’ bassist Martyn P Casey and drummer Alsy Macdonald. That’s further enhanced by guest appearances by fellow core Triffids Rob McComb and Graham ‘Evil’ Lee on ‘Nights on the River’ and ‘Fete Day’ respectively.

There’s a nice variety to the songs on the record. Opening track ‘Nights on the River’ features some subtle wailing guitars in the background whilst ‘Phoenix Highway’ has a similar feel to her Triffids’ composition, ‘Good Fortune Rose’.

The Casey bass plays as crucial a role on this E.P. as it did on most Triffids songs lending a grandeur to both ‘Fete Day’ and, my particular favourite, the title track on the ‘flip’ side of the record.

‘Still Life’ is a classy, unassuming E.P and promises much for a long overdue solo Jill Birt LP, which may materialise in 2012. As far as I know the only way to get a hold of the record (if you still can) is to go rooting around the Triffids forum here.

A photo montage video for one of the EP tracks ‘Fete Day’:

A reminder of my trip to Belgium to see the first Triffids reunion show in 2006 here and here.

There’s another batch of Triffids shows in Australia round about now:

  • 24th November – Brisbane Powerhouse

  • 26th November – Queenscliff Festival

  • 3rd December – Homebake Festival, Sydney

  • 4th December – Red Hill Amphitheatre, Perth


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