The Triffids' first single was released in 1981, but the band's full-length debut, Treeless Plain, didn't emerge until two years later. By then, the group had relocated from Perth to Sydney and solidified its lineup with the addition of Jill Birt (keyboards) and Martyn Casey (bass). Although frontman and principal songwriter David McComb drew on a primarily American rock tradition for inspiration (Bob Dylan, the Doors, Television, and the Velvet Underground), the resulting songs were always inextricably linked to his native Western Australian environment. Indeed, the title of this album refers to the Nullarbor ("No Tree") Plain, the desolate area the band regularly traversed en route to Perth's nearest significant neighbor, Adelaide -- a 32-hour drive. Comprising material that had been honed in live performance and recorded over a dozen midnight-to-dawn sessions, Treeless Plain underscores the Triffids' knack for blending folk and country with indie rock in a way that anticipated the rise of alt-country in the '90s. While "A Place in the Sun" and "Rosevel" attest to that dimension of the band's sound, it is best embodied in the majestic "Red Pony," with its hypnotic, mournful strings. McComb's characteristically dark narratives are also well-represented -- for instance, the bass-heavy groove, syncopated percussion, and stinging guitar of "Hanging Shed" suggesting a more melodic version of the Birthday Party. The energized, thumping makeover of Dylan's "I Am a Lonesome Hobo" and the driving "A Hell of a Summer," both featuring McComb's vocals at their most commanding and resonant, rightfully remained live favorites until the band's demise. Treeless Plain piqued interest in the U.K. -- where the band ultimately enjoyed the bulk of its success -- and offered incontrovertible evidence of McComb's skill as a songwriter with a unique lyrical and musical vision that would be fully realized on Born Sandy Devotional.
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AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate