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Rowland S. Howard - Pop Crimes (2009) review


Rowland S. Howard - Pop Crimes (Liberation Records, 2009)

Passing away in 2009, Rowland S. Howard, like Ian Curtis of Joy Division, has left us with a darkly unsettling body of work that will no doubt be poured over for years to come by fans of Birthday Party, Nick Cave, and The Boys Next Door, for hints at his demise, his tentative hold on his personal being, mysterious choice of covers, and the distillation of his lyrics, to etch out any hint as to who the man behind the man actually was.

Sounding dark and devious, as if he was perpetually pondering on a soapbox, ignored by all passerby's, guitar in hand, preaching of the final days, and the lack of human immortality ... in that who we are, and what we leave behind is a mere blurred vision of what we do and whom we effect.

Essentially, Pop Crimes is flawless at painting a perverse and askew image of pop culture in all of its subversive faded glory, complete with covers by both Talk Talk [“Life’s What You Make It”] and Townes Van Zandt [“Nothin”].  He tenders nether of these songs as one might expect, but then Howard seldom did anything by the numbers, leaving us to cypher the reasoning behind these choices.  Listening to Pop Crimes is no easy task, it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking, it’s tar on your new shoes from summer heated city streets and the lack of breathable air, laboriously rolling on and on, like a man searching his pockets over and over, knowing he’ll never have the correct change for the subway to take him someplace more bearable.

If nothing else, Rowland S. Howard has managed to show us a presence, and in the world of rock n’ roll, that’s saying something.

Review by Jenell Kesler/2016
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