ROWLAND S. HOWARD- Teenage Snuff Film.

24 10 2014

 

“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.





ROWLAND S HOWARD.

20 07 2014

 

“You wore the smell of success,
I wore the taste of sin.”

 

Everyone has their own idea as to what makes a brilliant songwriter. It can be the way they make you laugh with their words or the way they just “get” you with their words. It can be many reasons, it doesn’t just have to be one. The songwriter that makes you laugh can also be the one who makes you feel tough, weak and alright. All at once or eventually. They get you to where you are going with their words. You hear their words and it just makes you want to write something equally moving. Their words can instill a form of fear and passion inside of you, and you are not someone who is easily moved.

I always talk about Morrissey or Patti or Lou Reed when I mention really great songwriters. I mention them because their music has been around me since I was a baby. I grew up with their words and managed to shake my teen angst off to their tunes. There is one other person who I can firmly place next to them as being one of the greatest songwriters of all time; Rowland S Howard.

His soul shone through with his words. He got to your gut with his words; he made you feel things deeply and brought you into another world with his words. A dark, tormented world with hints of beauty piercing through. If you read the lyrics to Undone you will be thrown into a world of sheer heartbreak, the real pureness and torment of it with a chunk of disdain thrown in. It’s an ultimate “fuck you” with bouts of “how dare you.” If you’ve ever had your heart ripped out, just listen to this song and you’ll forget the one(s) who have wronged you. The secrecy you share with another (friend or lover) is no longer of any worth, and this song just portrays it perfectly. It is one of those songs you wish you had written. His dry and gnarly way with words made Rowland S Howard stand out from so many. The guy was a genius, and nobody else comes close.

Personally, I can’t get my head around songs that are full of positive energy. I like the songs that take me to some place where others daren’t go. I want the weird, I want the tormented, I want the dark lyrics. I want the songs that make me think and take me deep into some underworld that cannot be described. His way with words is addictive, to the point where you try to find someone else who has a similar take on words like Rowland did, but nobody else comes close at all. When I listen to his music or just read his words, I can’t help but wish more would delve into the world he created but at the same time glad nobody else has ever come close. Some may wish to compare Rowland to his buddy and ex-bandmate Nick Cave, but there was something different with Rowland. There was something in his innocent gaze and tormented lyrics that made you feel something unexplainable. Something you’ll spend days trying to figure out. His words at times wonderfully mocked whoever he was writing about in such a romantic way. A way that makes you instantly think of someone you’ve hurt with your words, you probably want their forgiveness but you’d rather fuck around for a bit before you launch an apology. As you taunt them, you taunt yourself. Some would say it is sadistic, but anyone with half a brain cell would know it is just human nature in all its ugly glory.

Aside from his way with words, Rowland was a ferocious guitar player who easily added the “dangerous” style to The Birthday Party. If it was anyone else playing the guitar in that band, they really would not have sounded the same, they would not have been as brutal as they were. He had this charm about him that just made you want to be into everything he did. I’ve watched the live clips of The Birthday Party, and the way he was on stage complimented Nick’s vocals (and occasional wails) perfectly. They had this bond on stage that is found now in the likes of The Kills to Crocodiles. If you’ve seen those bands live, you’ll know exactly what I mean. His look on stage was completed with a cigarette daringly yet casually hanging from his lips.

Rowland S Howard was rare. People like him don’t happen often, and that’s why he will always be missed. Although he only died 5 years ago, the gap is still there. There is nobody as daring and as rebellious as he was. He kept that streak upon him even when The Birthday Party was done. His solo work goes perfectly next to what he did with The Birthday Party, nobody could ever deny just how magnetic and sometimes delicate he was. On stage he moved like a madman, but you go into his lyrics and you’ll pick up on vulnerable aspects that surrounds us humans. He made it easy and alright to be a little weird and to just let go when you found something you loved.

He was brave; not just with his battle with cancer, but with the way he made music. He was someone who should still be around now scaring the life out of everyone with his words, his stage presence and his ability to play the guitar like no other. He should still be here to show us all how it is done, but as always, we have the music. We will always have the music.

The Birthday Party opened my ears up to a different world, I went into a different world with Rowland S Howard. A world to feel part of, a world to escape into. A world to no longer be afraid of. His music reminds us to be brave, be daring and to just do what feels right. He moved on stage like a beast possessed. Possessed with something bigger than the person containing it. The recognition of his genius came late in life, maybe too late. But those that knew, will always know just how amazing he truly was. Not many can leave you in awe like he did, not many ever will.

He unleashed a monster on stage; one that wasn’t feared, but one that was adored and treasured. It still is. His vulnerable gaze on the cover of Pop Crimes is always one of the first things that come to mind when I think about him, then the music plays and it all makes sense.