September 26, 2012 by tonetribune
With most great artists, you can attribute their signature sound to the environment in which they grew. Picture one of the most rugged, wild and dynamic ecosystems in the world. A place laden with exotic and beautiful predators, burning deserts, thick mangroves and the occasional thriving metropolis. Enter Melbourne, Australia 1978. The year The Boys Next Door (later known as The Birthday Party) released their beautifully hideous cacophony on the world.
Few bands are as visually or aurally striking as these four and though a young Nick Cave acts as the elegant, dead-beat-poet MC, perhaps the most alluring and curious figure of fun on the stage is guitar-interrorgator Rowland S Howard.
With a face like an abused child and a sinewy slight build, the sheer menace that emanates from his evil twin reverb as he strangles information out his Fender Jaguar is simultaneously hypnotic, beautiful and torturous. It seems to wrap the listener in a spider web of icicles and then burn them free before completely consuming them. With each note, he takes you on a feverous journey across mirage-laden desert junkyards, dark reptilian jungles and freezing wet caves where your only company are the bats.
Though taken from us at the tragically young age of 50, he left behind some of the most starkly original material of his generation in his wake and remained prolific right up until the end. Some later albums (Teenage Snuff Film and Pop Crimes) showcase his uncompromising signature style in a more refined light that also reveals his great lyrical prowess. Not a guitarist for the faint of heart.