The Triffids
The Black Swan

Disc One

Disc Two

A Personal View:

In The Pines The Black Swan was, in its own way, as audacious a record as The Triffids ever made, and one that divided fans the most of all. In short a fitting last studio album, though we didn't know it at the time.

When this record was made in 1998, David McComb was writing prodigiously in any number of styles. He was reading voraciously, staying up late and watching trash TV (not through choice but insomnia) and forming various working relationships with like minded collaborators inside the band and out, and turning it all into something from his own mold. Hip hop, tango, country, pop, epic soft rock ballad, 30 second haiku. If he was trying to impress he was doing very well, but I somehow suspect it was for his own benefit. It certainly must have been somewhat confusing to our label, Island Records. Dave had enough songs to make a couple of albums but it was a world away from Born Sandy Devotional, a collection of songs intended to be together forever even though the characters in them weren't destined for such steadfast devotion. These new songs seemed almost designed to clash, fizz and spit when placed in close proximity. It was a nightmare to programme a running order.

Stephen StreetWith Stephen Street in the producer's chair, Dave enlisted Phil Kakulas, a founding Triffid who had never lost touch with Dave and who had spent a lot of time with him in the Perth summer of '87/'88, hiding from the heat like they did when they were teenagers, trying to give expression to concepts a little more sophisticated than the all night horrorthons of old. Through Phil, Rita Menedez, a Spanish speaking opera singer became involved. Old friend Adam Peters was around too as were all the members of The Triffids, though they were a little perplexed at the swelling of their ranks. Over a month or two in a residential studio at Cathangar in Somerset (or was it Dorset) we recorded song after song with the thought that they were certainly a mixed bunch but that variety was a spice and maybe it should be a double album just to ram the point home. The White Album was not something we aspired to but it was certainly brought up in conversation with the powers that were to push the idea of more songs than the usual dozen being included.

The double album wasn't to be and The Black Swan came out to good reviews tempered with confusion. Diversity was not considered a virtue, whether it be within an album or even from one album to the next. And, what's more, The Black Swan turned out to be the last studio album we ever made.

Sandy SwanWhen The Triffids fizzled out and ceased to be Dave didn't forget about the albums we'd made and he kept a list of possible catalogue projects that he circulated to the rest of the band. We didn't have a record label who were very interested in anything except putting out a best of and keeping the old albums ticking over, or more might have come of Dave's idea, expressed in '92 or '93, of "restoring TBS to the sprawling, messy masterpiece it promised to be". When the time came, with a bit of prodding from Phil Kakulas, I decided to bit the bullet and attempt the restoration. We all know how fraught with danger such things are but I had a list of the songs that were to go in there and only needed a running order. The running order is based on the original (Australian?) order with the extra songs slotted in as appropriate spots as could be found.

I don't imagine that this extended re-issue will magically convert TBS sceptics, but here's hoping. Phil Kakulas has written liner notes and we agree that, though it's still a crazy mixture of styles and sounds, it does somehow fit together in a way Dave would approve of.

TBS Gallery

Finally, some photographs taken at the sessions for TBS and some taken in WA on a photo shoot for the cover of the album. It was after this fruitless day spent wandering dunes north of Perth that Dave came up with the concept for the cover on the trip back to Peppermint Grove. We shot it soon after in the stables at the back of his parents' house. Click on these for larger images.

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