Your Musical Word of the Day: Calenture

Categories: Whatever

Clipper Ship Blackadder, courtesy of John Oxley Library.jpg
John Oxley Library
Clipper Ship Blackadder
Definition: A fever, specifically a fever that was supposed to affect sailors on long sea voyages to the tropics. The fever caused hallucinations that the ocean was actually a green field, and sailors would attempt to jump down to it only to drown. The hallucinations may have some connection to the concept of Fiddler's Green, a kind of afterlife that is supposed to be the reward for sailors who spend 50 years at sea.

Use In a Sentence: I wish someone would put together a scorching playlist for this calenture of a summer. Might make the hallucinations a little more bearable, don't you think, 10-foot bunny rabbit in a marching band costume?

Use In a Song: The Triffids, "Calenture"

triffids calture.jpg

If you asked us what country houses the next great pop superstars, we'd say England. Best indie acts? Sweden. However, when it comes to which country really had the best pop in the '80s we always think that Australia doesn't get near the credit it deserves. INXS, Midnight Oil, and The Triffids - not to mention the best post-punk movie ever made, Dogs in Space - represent a very specific look at pop that no other country really got together, in our opinion.

Calenture was the basis of The Triffids' 1987 album of the same name that dealt mostly will delirium and insanity. Rather than utilize the actual song "Calenture," which is a beautifully broken piano instrumental track, we thought we'd share the band's big hit "Bury Me Deep in Love."

In keeping with the concept of a fever dream that claims the life of those who dive into it, the song is an amazing mixture of Heaven and Hell. The thing that the Triffids and other Australian bands of that era always seemed to bring to their recordings was that sense of embracing a kind of damnation, even seeing something like salvation in it. It's the gospel of those who for whom pain and pleasure are distanced only by the type of scars they leave.

The Triffids didn't survive long after Calenture. Island Records did their best to try and separate singer David McComb from the rest of the band, and though they didn't break up right after, it severely wounded the band's dynamic.

The Triffids played their last show three years after Calenture's release, and McComb would die a broken man in a car accident in 1999 at age 37. The rest of the band moved on to non-musical work except for bassist Martyn P. Casey, who became a member of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Grinderman.


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