“I’ve got a lot to say
But I keep my own counsel
I’d like to spit it out
But I won’t speak with my mouth full.”
There are some records that freak you out and stay with you forever, no matter what. You can find something new and fall carelessly and blissfully in love with it. But there are times where all you need is that one record that shook you to the core and wrapped itself around your brain and heart with the first listen. This record can be from now or 30 years ago. The feeling it gives you never fades. Never.
Today would have been Rowland S. Howard’s 55th birthday. He’s missed. His delicate way with words, is missed. His ferocious guitar playing, is missed. He is missed.
I decided to write about his first solo record, Teenage Snuff Film as it is one I frequently listen to- at home and at work. When I listen to it, I am anywhere but where my body is. There is release and tension in Teenage Snuff Film which makes it timeless, beautiful and relatable. The record can freak you out due to how open and vulnerable it is. Rowland was one of the finest songwriters ever, he was unafraid to go beyond what you thought a person could feel. This is why I miss him.
Dead Radio is my favourite from Teenage Snuff Film. I adore how he points out why a person is bad for him and how he is equally as bad. I listen to it, and where it takes me is sacred and something that stays, for every right and wrong reason possible. Everything TJAMC’s Psychocandy makes me feel and reminds me of is right in this song. My errors and faults bubble to the surface, but I don’t mind. You can’t press down on everything all of the time. His lustful and passionate words makes you wish you could have guts like that. But, I suppose it is natural to be afraid. He was brave so you didn’t have to be, and that is something that is evident with every listen.
All of Teenage Snuff Films feels like an ode to a person- a partner or an intense friend, it has that unconditional reliability and truth to it. I’m starting to feel less comfortable with writing about new music as I sometimes feel like I’m doing it for the sake of it. Writing about what has come before seems easier to write about, I’m not sure why but I would take something like this over something new and polished any day.
If you judge records by their artwork, then you would take a lot at Teenage Snuff Film and think it was a dark body of work- your judgement wouldn’t be wrong at all. It’s a dark and heavy record. It isn’t for those who want conventional boring love songs about how your heart skips a beat when you hear your desired ones name/voice. That’s what makes it relatable and accessible. It’s a record that, if I was a musician (be grateful I’m not) I would work my behind off to make something as powerful as. Teenage Snuff Film is a gritty and underground listen. Everything about it feels like an unmentioned rite of passage. Rowland guides you through every ugly feeling so you don’t have to carry yourself, alone and twisted. Sure some may pass it off as an uncomfortable listen but to be honest, I don’t want to listen to anything that makes me feel at ease or “safe” I suppose. I want a piece of music to take me out of my mind, body and soul. I want it to freak me out as much as possible- I don’t care what type of music it is, I’m just looking for a certain feeling. If you limit yourself to a certain genre you become really pretentious don’t you? Sure you like what you like, but open your mind and expand your record collection.
If you want cruel, listen to I Burnt Your Clothes. If you want shame, listen to Shut Me Down. If you want warped devotion, then just play the whole record and you’ll hear it creeping in and out of each song. You can take your own meaning from each song and you can feel every single word that falls from Rowland’s mouth. You can sense the trembling and you pick up on certain lines that just stay with you. Certain songs become everything to you. What they mean to you is on the tip of your tongue and rooted deeply inside of you.
With every listen of Teenage Snuff Film I become more and more aware of just how important it is and more importantly, how much of a genius Rowland was. That term is thrown about a lot and I’m guilty of chucking it about. But with Rowland, it is a fully justified and right way to describe him, his music and his words.
It’s alright to have ugly and bleak thoughts/feelings. It’s alright to not want what is expected from you. It’s alright to feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Just don’t let what you feel define you. Teenage Snuff Film is full of things no one else but Rowland could ever teach you. I’m happy to keep on listening.