Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shivers: R.I.P. Rowland S. Howard

It's such a cliché, but it's disturbing how often it's true: You don't appreciate an artist or person until they're gone... Rowland S. Howard passed away today. Click HERE for Howard's obituary in Australia.

Umlaut generally only exposes my Metal side in this space, but I actually listen to a variety of music... and Nick Cave has been my favorite songwriter since the late-80's. Rowland Howard was a founding member and guitarist of The Birthday Party with Cave, but their history extends back to an earlier version of that band called The Boys Next Door who released an album (Door, Door) in 1979 that featured the haunting Goth love anthem 'Shivers'. Yes, the Goth posing by Cave in the following video is cheesy here in the 21st Century... BUT Rowland Howard wrote the song's lyrics when he was 16-years old and they're still riveting to me.

"I've been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn't suit my style. So I think I'll just act bored instead.. to contain the blood I would have shed."

Again, those lyrics were written by Rowland Howard when he was 16-years old... Think of that as the camera focuses on Howard at the 1:59 minute mark.

Then there was The Birthday Party... a band that I won't spend time pontificating about here... because if you don't know them already you're kinda not a full-fledged member of the Umlaut Nation. Sorry... just being honest.

Rowland Howard is so fucking badass in that performance.. cigarette perched on lower lip as he stabs out chords on his Fender Jaguar as bassist Tracy Pew (who passed away in 1986) shoves his head inside the bass drum. Bands these days don't even fucking know...

For awhile in the late-80's and into the 90's the satellite bands around Cave that involved his past and present band members and collaborators were just as compelling as he was; they were like a gang of musicians and artists that seemed to bind Australia and Germany together... and Howard's work with These Immortal Souls, Crime and the City Solution, and his solo releases were perfect counterparts to Cave & the Bad Seeds. Howard also sang backup vocals on the song 'Do You Love Me?" on Cave's seminal 1994 album Let Love In.

As I said at the start of this rant, it's a cliché how you tend to appreciate an artist or person more when they're gone. Umlaut's head has been so METAL for the past year or so that I ignored other parts of my record collection... and Howard's passing makes me feel guilty about that. I know it's too late, but I'm pulling all of my Boys Next Door, Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls, Crime and the City Solution, and Roland S. Howard CDs and records out and listening to them again... for the first time.

Anyway, age may only be a number but it's tough getting older and seeing your old heroes moving on like this. This year began with the passing of the great Ron Asheton and now it's ending with Rowland Howard... as well as Vic Chesnutt last week... and I know it's too late but I just picked up the new albums by both Howard (released in October) and Chesnutt (released in September).

R.I.P. Rowland S. Howard..