Friday, June 11, 2010

Exit Everything

There was a very sad loss to the gulag last year when Roland S Howard left the building as a result of liver cancer. I am guilty here of doing something which irks me about people's treatment of RSH, i.e. referring to him as a guitarist by way of the gulag. The guy was a unique guitarist and one of the finest Australia has produced...he more than passes the UT test of whether a guitarist matters, did you recognise their playing the moment you heard it? But this overlooks what an excellent songwriter and more specifically, sorry rhythmn section, an excellent lyricist he was. While his erstwhile bandmate Nick Cave long ago descended into self-parody, Roland wrote cold, visceral songs about now (not some southern gothic blah blah blah). I am not a fan of treating lyrics as poetry (again step forward Nick Cave and his published volumes) as they don't stand up. But check Dead Radio (unfortunately as his solo releases were hugely overlooked, more on this in a minute, you tube has only some sketchy bootlegs. Here is the lyric sheet) for some fine work. Even his most famous song which he wished to partly disown, Shivers, is about the best set of teenage-written lyrics I have cry/fly/die mountain/fountain to be found there.

So far as I can tell his last album Pop Crimes was as near as self-released and sold out within minutes at his last gig at the Prince. The previous album Teenage Snuff Film is a masterpeice. Brooding, nasty, malevolent, melodic and intelligent. Not a dud track on it.

I was greatly saddened by his passing. He was awesome and original. His guitar playing was at once melodic and percussive, and you never once heard him play a note that didn't matter (something of which I am guilty every time I play). There was no pointless Clapton shit.

Considering his physical appearance made me feel ill, so sickly did he look even in health, his lyric that "when the lighting is bad, I'm the man with the most" sums him up perfectly.

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Blogger Dan said...

to be honest, the lyrics to Shiver have always bugged me.

My baby's so vain, she is almost a mirror? It makes no sense, mirrors are not vain, they are humble helpers -- accessories to vainglory. And if my baby really was so vain then I'd be the mirror, not her -- so that every time she looked at me she would be looking at herself.

13/6/10 11:13  
Blogger Unrelenting Tedium said...

Okay. Let me start by saying that I don't think they are brilliant, far from it. But when i compare it to anything I wrote at the same age, or any of the fine songwriters I knew then, they are highly impressive (I am yet to catch up with Winky Dink to hear his/her thoughts on your tome).

As for the metaphor, I see your point, but I quite liked the oddness of it. Is it actually the narrator projecting vanity? Or is it that if you are so obsessed with your own image you in fact cease to be separate from your reflection?

The mockery of teen angst (I think I'll just act bored instead) is good I think.

But once again, I don't think they are up to much. RSH said on numerous occasions that he thought not very much of them (memorably answering a persistent heckler at one gig I attended that not a single atom in his body remained the same as when he wrote that song).

I think it is hugely unjust that he is remembered only as the guitarist in the birthday party and the composer of Shivers. Neither aspect rates very highly with me.

13/6/10 14:13  
Blogger Dan said...

the screaming jets were a fantastic band, allright. I'll give them that.

incidentally, the only song I wrote when I was a teenager was called "Ten buck fuck" and it wasn't very good.

As a guage of how good it was the chorus rhymes "brain" with "insane" which is obviously massively original. Interestingly, though it did feature duelling lead vocals, which is obviously a precursor to my later squid involvement.

13/6/10 18:43  

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