I used to see Rowland S. Howard occasionally when I lived in St Kilda. That was in the 90s. Did I ever tell you kids about the 90s? It was a crazy time, but it’ll have to wait because right now I want to talk about Rowland.
I’d see Rowland around–not a lot, but I definitely remember seeing him. Unfortunately I had no idea who he was; I just thought he was some older cool dude. There were lots of older guys who looked super-cool back in those days. The Esplanade Hotel and The Prince of Wales were lousy with them: tall, skinny fellows who looked like they might be roadies for The Bad Seeds or The Cruel Sea. They wore boots and tight jeans at a time when sneakers and baggy jeans were all the rage, and they all had perfectly unkempt hair and the kind of gaze that could make you shrivel. Rowland was one of these guys–to me, anyway–but he had the added blessing of looking like a vampire. He really was a peculiar looking man, quite striking. Anyway, it’s one of my life’s greatest regrets that I didn’t know who Rowland was, because in 1999 he made the best record I have ever heard in my entire life–Teenage Snuff Film– and it would’ve been nice to have stopped him on the street and gushed.
I can’t endorse this, his first solo record, enough. No two ways about it, the man knew instinctively how to write perfect, brilliant, and impossibly unique songs. For a start, TSF is lyrically unrivaled; it’s absolute poetry. Take this from the opening track, ‘Dead Radio’:
I blew in last night/ I’m the ghost from the coast/ When the lighting is bad/ I’m the man with the most/ And you left me to choke/ On a heart up in smoke/ Smiling through your tears/ And your tetracycline overdose
Are you fucking kidding me? ‘Tetracycline overdose’? Jesus Christ. And nothing sounds like this record either; certainly no one has wrenched sounds from a guitar like the ones you’ll hear here, they’re incredible. The man was a genius. I really want you to listen to this album, even though I don’t know who you are or what you dig, I really, really want you to enjoy this record. So here’s what you do.
Check the weather and see when the next big stormy night is rolling through your area. Make a note of it, and then call up your local pot dealer. Buy some weed. Now go down to your local wine vendor and buy two bottles of E. Guigal Cotes Du Rhone, 2007 or earlier. Also buy some standard table candles; don’t get the non-dripping ones (what’s the point of candles if they’re not running onto a stack of paperbacks or your carpet?) When the storm comes through, turn off your phone, turn off all the lights and get horribly drunk and stoned, then put this record on loud and on repeat until you pass out.
You can thank me later.
Rest in peace, Mr. Howard.