The Triffids - In The Pines
Damn, I just did!
Anyway, now I have got that out of the way, I can concentrate on the review of this album proper. However, it is worth remembering the fact of that opening sentence at all times, for this is the Triffids at their most lo-fi. It comes in complete contrast to Calenture which saw them at their most polished (some would argue it was over-produced) phase. If you want to evaluate the difference directly, I suggest you listen to the versions of "Jerdacuttup Man" which feature on both these albums.
Now for many, lo-fi is just an excuse for not having to spend too much money on fancy production. For the Triffids, lo-fi is an art in itself. As the liner notes to this expanded and remastered reissue explain, the original producer was rehired and was able to enhance it in a way which he claims he originally wished to, but was not able to do because of the limitations of technology at the time. One result of this is that the sound is clearer and more vibrant, without losing the positive effects of the recording style, such as the wonderful, almost live feel to the whole thing. And just in case you forgot, the banter which goes on in between tracks is also left in, though I confess I am not usually a fan of this tactic. However, there are downsides to this production method. Sometimes the vocals are somewhat distorted - witness the David McComb's "s" sound becoming much more like the hissing of a snake on several of the tracks.
But it would be churlish to dwell on these issues in the face of an album which is a rare treat. The quasi-live sound is what makes the album well worth listening to. In truth, the songs are not as strong as on either Born Sandy Devotional (their best in my view) or Calenture. At no time, however, can one fault the quality of the lyrics, which have always been a hallmark of the Triffids - thoughtful and elegant. The quality of the songwriting marks David McComb out as one of the best, not to mention unsung, heroes of lyrical style.
The opener, "Suntrapper" is perhaps the best of the bunch and certainly sounds the rawest. "Kathy Knows" is often cited as one of the better tracks but I find it drags a little. "Jerdacuttup Man" is perhaps not as strong as the later version on Calenture and there are other tracks which feature here which are earlier versions of those which appeared on later albums including "Trick of the Light", "One Soul Less on Your Fiery List" (the same song as "Hometown Farewell Kiss") and a full version of "Born Sandy Devotional", a stripped down version of which appeared on the extended album of the same name but, for some reason, was missed off the original vinyl issue in 1986.
Perhaps the most intriguing tracks are the two country influenced tracks in the middle. "Once a Day" is the better of the two and is a clever little song, delivered in a rousing style with a live, clap-along, almost drunken backing vocal and some excellent work by "Evil" Graham Lee on pedal steel guitar. On balance, these may have suited the environment in which they were recorded better than their inclusion on this album might suggest.
In the Pines is in some ways an ambitious album; in others it is perhaps rather indulgent. When it works it works well, and for the same reasons which make any Triffids album a success. However, it does have some flaws and these mean that it does not scale the heights reached with Born Sandy Devotional. Nonetheless, this is a fine album, and well worth having in anyone's collection.
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on 2012-11-16 CharlesMartel Said:
It is an interesting album because of its recording, but the best Triffids album is undoubtedly Born Sandy Devotional, which I have reviewed as well.
on 2012-11-15 dscanland Said:
You've got my curiosity up enough that I've got the Triffids - In The Pines on my "track down" list.