Rowland S. Howard Pop Crimes on LP + Download
Always respected by his peers, a scan through the catalog of Rowland S. Howard sees him allied with the likes of Lydia Lunch, Thurston Moore, Wim Wenders, Barry Adamson, The Gun Club, Nikki Sudden, the Beasts Of Bourbon, the Hungry Ghosts and HTRK. Rowland’s own ensemble, These Immortal Souls, gun their engines in the ill-lit background and the legacy of his work with The Birthday Party scores the skin of successive generations of musicians and fans.
But it’s a history Rowland would gleefully put a match to. With or without it, Rowland S. Howard would make tense, beautiful music, would deliver us his personal vision of the world, would create Pop Crimes. Long-time faithful friends Mick Harvey, JP Shilo and producer Lindsay Gravina make for a fortunate backline. Out front the guitar playing couldn't be any one else but Rowland S. Howard and his weary, almost journalistic vocal delivery dispassionately sits amidst the sweaty panic of the music, adding to the ill ease.
The band lurch into Pop Crimes as if dragging a rain soaked body across a muddy field. The ghosts of Lee Hazlewood, Snatch, Sergio Leone, The Shangri-Las and nameless guys grom a never known chain gang watch on. With the first few breaths Rowland references Stalin, Calvary and genocide, whilst razoring guitar lines the current crop of post-punk revisionists could only fantasize about.
"Shut Me Down" is Rowland at his most romantic, though inevitably it's shot through with loss and longing. If only Dusty Springfield were alive to revel in its drama. Talk Talk's "Life's What You Make It" is re-imagined as if it had risen from the grind of a Detroit auto plant's assembly line. "(I Know) A Girl Called Johnny" sees Jonnine D from HTRK sidle up to the microphone for a duet that will melt even the coldest of hearts. It's a glorious missing link between New York girl group sounds and the street smarts of Suicide.
Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin" is given a chilling tenement building transformation. "Wayward Man" has the band wailing like alarm sirens before Rowland emerges at his most contemplative with the gorgeous, fragile build of "Ave Maria." Final track "The Golden Age of Bloodshed" takes the album out on a swaggering, swashbuckling epic, with salvation slipping through the narrator's fingers.
Originally issued in 2009 on Liberation Records and reissued here on Fat Possum, Pop Crimes is Rowland S. Howard's final album, released just two months before he succumbed to hepatocellular carcinoma secondary to liver cirrhosis on December 30, 2009 at the age of 50.
Rowland S. Howard Pop Crimes Track Listing:
1. (I Know) A Girl Called Johnny
2. Shut Me Down
3. Life's What You Make It
4. Pop Crimes
6. Wayward Man
7. Avé Maria
8. The Gold Age of Bloodshed