Saturday, July 5, 2008

it's a wide open road...

This week I took inspiration from a song by a West Australian band The Triffids called 'Wide Open Road'. Steve Kilbey performed it recently at a Hall of Fame event in Melbourne fronting the remaining members of The Triffids for their inauguration into the HOF. Lead singer/songwriter David McComb passed away in February 1999 a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday.

'Wide Open Road' appears on The Church's 2nd acoustic album El Momento Siguiente as the opening track. When I purchased the album and was getting into all the songs I thought 'Wide Open Road' was merely another(!) great Church track & Kilbey song. I realised after about a week that from reading the track listings the song is credited to "David McComb". Oh I thought, I wondered who David McComb was for a moment, and let it go...but I really liked the song.

Subsequently I discovered 'Wide Open Road' was performed and recorded by the aformentioned Triffids, an 80's band from Perth, WA. I've never been a big investigator of rock bands so obviously the Triffids passed by my window. Yet reading up a bit about David McComb I was intrigued and saddened by his loss at such a young age, and with so much promise too.

My interest in David McComb and 'Wide Open Road' heightened this week with Kilbey's performance of the song in Melbourne. I looked him up in wiki. I discovered he came from a family of medical professionals, was well-educated and well-housed. With weaving success in Australia & Britain throughout the 80's they disbanded around 1989. It appears that David's final decade was fraught with drug addiction and alcoholism. Apparently he had a car accident in January 1999 and was released from hospital with minor bruising, collapsing and dying at home in Melbourne a few days later.

After all these years I still have this subconscious belief that anyone who comes from a safe, educational, upper middle class background should have it made. Obviously that's not how it is, and I realise it after that split-second of wonderment. David reminds me somewhat of Syd Barrett as they seem to have come from very similar backgrounds, they were both uniquely gifted creative artists who appeared to drift quickly into limitation and sadness, snuffing out their great talents all too soon.

I feel for David, primarily through the song 'Wide Open Road'. I left a comment on Kilbey's blog this week suggesting that the song should acheive iconic Aussie see, there's vulnerability and ache in 'Wide Open Road'. 'Khe Sahn' & 'Flame Trees', as examples, are too strong and impenetrable. 'Wide Open Road' hits you right in the gut, there's yearningness and a kind of hurt passion to it. Lyrically it's very Australian....very clever in that 'wide open road' is indicative of the postlude to a broken relationship and literally, the wide open road of highway, scenery, desert, endless straight tarmac. Musically it's beautiful with the simple chord changes matching the yearningness of the lyrics and the melody.

'Wide Open Road' is not a song that pulls up a carapace of toughness; I feel a guilelessness and passion in David's lyrics and tune disassociated with comfortably dealing with the travails of lost love, or the modern world in general. Perhaps his poetic, sensitive nature overwhelmed him, thereby his sojourn into heroin and alcohol, but I don't know. All I gather is from this one, great song.

I look forward to discovering more of David McComb's work, and the Triffids music in general.

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