The Australian underground has a history of producing bands that create mutant forms of rock and roll that could only have originated from Australia. From the garage thump of '60s icons The Loved Ones to the hard sharpie R'n'B of Coloured Balls to the thug punk of The Saints, there seems to be something in the Australian water which produces an ugly and malnourished version of rock'n'roll that is unrelenting, damaging and unhinged.
The Birthday Partyencapsulate this ethos perhaps more than any other band. At the heart of their sound was the unique caterwauling guitar work of the inimitableRowland S. Howard.
Many picture Rowland S. Howard as a man of utter elegance and grace, whose knowledge of literature and music knew no bounds. In my mind I like to think of Rowland S. Howard doing the mundane things in life. I enjoy picturing Rowland in Berlin in 1984 taking out the rubbish or perhaps in 1997 mowing the lawn.
Rowland S. Howard was never a virtuoso. Rather, he was a primitive iconoclast of the highest order. He explored that noise in his head, that noise that was unique to him.
To place artists like Rowland S. Howard on a pedestal and relegate the albums he left behind as the untouchable work of an iconic artist is to miss one of the most important parts of Rowland’s artistic process. That was finding that sound that you could truly call your own.
Rowland S. Howard mastered the art of making that one guitar note sound good and in doing so he has left behind a catalogue that is singular.
Perhaps the highest praise one can bestow is that it sounds only like the one and only Rowland S. Howard.