A Beautiful Waste – The David McComb Story








Writer, broadcaster and director Jonathan Alley took thirteen years putting together his documentary Love in Bright Landscapes. Delayed by Covid, his magnum opus of a music doco has finally hit the independent cinemas within Australia and across the globe.


As someone of a similar age to the late David McComb and his band The Triffids, this film had an emotional pull that I underestimated.


As a native of WA, there are very clear characteristics that only ‘Sandgropers’ can understand about growing up in the world’s most isolated city.


The film evoked a lot of memories of my childhood, as well as to why I fell so in love with The Triffids after leaving home as a young 17 year old, to join the army in a moment of rebellious desperation.


WA in the 60s and 70s was a bland, flat, dusty, conservative and boring place.


The positive from all that insipidness was that we had to use our imaginations and explore the spectacular beaches and native bushland, creating our own fun.


How conservative? Well the long standing Premier at the time, Sir Charles Court was planning to build a road between Perth and Brisbane direct, in cahoots with the maniacal Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke Peterson in order to secede from the other states.


Presumably they hoped to tunnel through Uluru in the process.


The Triffids emerged in the early 80s on the back of some excellent bands from Perth such as The Hoodoo Gurus, Chads Tree, The Stems and The Scientists, but The Triffids were very different.


They seemed to sound almost like a European band at the time. Lots of light and shade, orchestral at times and intelligent, thoughtful lyrics delivered by a powerful and charismatic front man.


The first three releases, Raining Pleasure, Treeless Plain and Born Sandy Devotional hooked me immediately.


Even though the lyrics didn’t necessarily relate to WA, the songs took me back to salt water, unrelenting heat, burning your feet on the beach, ‘double-gee’ prickles and something that is so unique to WA, long distance travel.


Before the highways that are now established, nothing in WA was ‘close’, and in fact even now whenever I get a chance to go home, I forget just how far everything is to get to compared to the east coast. Sandgropers don’t talk in kilometres, but hours or beers.


It’s why The Triffids Wide Open Road is such a seminal song. Yes it’s about revenge, but for me it encapsulates what it is to be a West Australian. The film clip contains the sweet smoke stacks of my home town of Kwinana.  :)


The Triffids had critical acclaim in the UK and Europe but failed to achieve commercial success. The highs and lows are well documented here, as are David’s health issues, battles with alcohol and untimely death.


I really loved the frankness and honesty of the band’s keyboardist Jill Birt and David’s partner Jo which allowed us to get to know David a bit more intimately. Also the footage of David’s childhood is nostalgic and quite beautiful.


There is an extraordinary amount of insights into a complex and brilliant artist who at 37, left us way too early.


His commitment to his art and how he arranged words and music reminded me of Brian Wilson, someone who also faced enormous challenges but could somehow produce heavenly songs.


David was fearless in his approach and seemingly had no limitations to what he set himself to achieve. Inevitably with such an obsession to one’s craft comes flaws and David’s are covered in the film openly and honestly.


David was a true original and The Triffids will forever take their place as one of the most influential bands of my generation. Thanks to Jonathan for getting this stunning homage to a great artist to the screen.


Love in Bright Landscapes is on limited release at independent cinemas and there is a comprehensive website: CLICK HERE


Here is the trailer:





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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. Terrific review Ian. Look forward to seeing the movie. The lyrics Dylanesque images. The sound dense and lyrical like Ultravox or Simple Minds. Australian themes with universal influences.
    Maybe the early death reinforces the power of the music? “Better to burn out than to fade away” as Neil and Kurt suggested?
    Hope to be carried out to “Bury Me Deep in Love”.

  2. An excellent review. And once again we are on the same wavelength, Ian.

    Here’s my review of Born Sandy, as part of my “Aussie Album review” series:

    I am hoping to see the film this coming weekend.

  3. Rick Kane says

    Thanks Ian, and yes, looking forward to seeing this film and reliving a little of David McComb remarkable talent and band. As another from WA, of a similar age I do need to correct the record slightly. The Stems and Chad’s Tree, two excellent Perth bands came after The Triffids, and the Hoodoos formed in Sydney. A better reference would beCheap Nasties, The Victims and The Manikins, which featured both Kim Salmon and Dave Faulkner, albeit at different times. Cheers

  4. I saw the film on Saturday, Ian.
    Even though I knew how it ended, I found it terribly sad.
    Mrs Smokie, who knew little of the Triffids and McComb, enjoyed it also

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