The Sound of Murder: Rowland S Howard

53 years ago today, a man named Rowland S. Howard was born. Most of you probably have no idea who that is but if you’ve ever dug Nick Cave’s first band, The Birthday Party, then you may recognize that the band’s primal scream did not just come from Cave himself. Half of that is owed to Howard and his guitar. And he was doing good job carrying that on after the band broke up.

You’ll hardly ever find him listed on a website as one of the greatest guitarist ever (except for when SPIN did earlier this year, but even all of the good karma that comes from that was canceled out and then some when they include Skrillex on the same list), yet that hardly matters. His deal wasn’t about being the best guitar player ever. He was more about writing songs. Good ones, at that. This was evidenced primarily through his solo work. He only put out two solo albums before his untimely death in 2009, but believe me, it’s a discography worth owning. I only got acquainted with his solo stuff back in March when I heard his first album, Teenage Snuff Film. When the first lines of the album “You’re bad for me like cigarettes/but I haven’t sucked enough of you yet” rang through the speakers, I felt like I understood that perfectly. And so I became hooked, listening to the album front-to-back and back-to-front. From the guitar melodies  laced in feedback and contempt to the intricate lyrics that stuck around with you like the smell of cigarettes to aesthetic atmospheres created when it all came together (and the even better ones when it all fell apart), it was everything rock ‘n’ roll should be: dangerous and uncompromising.

Dead Radio – Rowland S Howard

I got into his other solo album Pop Crimes, but it didn’t have the same impact as the other. This may be because he recorded it on a deadline. Literally. Death was knocking at his door so he had to rush the recording process. He managed to cheat it long enough to finish and release the album, put on a few shows and finished recording his parts for what came to be the posthumous documentary Autoluminescent; needless to say, he didn’t go out without a fight.

So why’d I write this? Because recently I’ve been revisiting this album and since it’s his birthday, why not? In honor of it, I made a small playlist of my favorite tracks he’s been involved in. I feel it’s a pretty solid intro for anyone who’s trying to get into his stuff or even just wants to listen to something different. Check em out.

Exit Everything – Rowland S. Howard

Shivers – Rowland S Howard

Junkyard – The Birthday Party

Release the Bats – Rowland S. Howard

Silver Chain – Rowland S. Howard

Pop Crimes – Rowland S. Howard

Autoluminescent – Rowland S. Howard

Sleep Alone – Rowland S. Howard

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