A fond farewell from one of Australia’s music legends.
Following the disbanding of the Birthday Party in the early 80s, Rowland S Howard led a series of incredible musical experiments that pushed his edge and howling guitar tones further than ever before. Despite the brilliance of Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls (on top of work with Hungry Ghosts), they all disbanded and led Howard to create his 1999 epic, ‘Teenage Snuff Film’.
After years of addiction, his health began to decline, and with that came his last record, ‘Pop Crimes’. An easy comparison would be Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’, but this is borne from the gutter rather than glitz. All the angst and pain that was distilled in his songwriting and guitar work is moderated here into a simple presentation of 8 songs (including a Talk Talk cover) which serve as a retrospective of just how incredible a talent Howard was.
‘Pop Crimes’ is the album that sounds like the end of a life worn in. It could have only been made after the hardships endured over the 20+ years of work prior. At moments beautifully sensitive and dissonant (‘Ave Maria’), but then returns the trademark screeches and anger on the grungy waltz of ‘Wayward Man’ and the title track. ‘Shut Me Down’ and ‘A Girl Called Johnny’ work in the great traditions of Pop songwriting and are smooth as they can be considering the brain that birthed them.
Mick Harvey’s production ensures that nothing is lost from Rowlands's initial vision for dark sounds and ideas present in all his work. And the record doesn’t outstay it’s welcome at all.
It’s a beautiful last goodbye that marks a legendary career from one of our greatest voices. This is essential rock listening for all. And a criminally underrated classic.
‘Pop Crimes’, ‘Six Strings That Drew Blood’, and ‘Teenage Snuff Film’ are available in the Store now.
See ‘Autoluminescent’ (Documentary) for further interest.