I’ve Been Crowned By Hate

If I started a band, it would be known as The Island of Dr. Zizmor. Just sayin’.

Dipping deeply into The Celibate Rifles in the past few days has journeyed me onward to my ‘ol love of These Immortal Souls, a solo project of Rowland S. Howard following the demise of the Birthday Party and Crime and the City Solution. Almost a supergroup of indie Aussie proportions, These Immortal Souls (in addition to Howard and his bassist brother Harry from Crime&the City) included Epic Soundtracks (of Swell Maps) on drums, and Genevieve McGuckin on creepy gothic piano.

It’s a suitably sad story: after forming around 1986-7, TIS released the EP Marry Me (Lie! Lie!) and a superb full length, Get Lost, (Don’t Lie) soon after, both on SST. I don’t think they’ve ever been on CD. The later is a record that includes not only dynamite, alligator skinning originals, the kind of gothic stuff about malformed children of incest, swamp marriages, and death by junkyard impaling, but it also included Howard’s tense and hair-raising version of Alex Chilton’s “Hey (Little Child),” from Chilton’s nightmare masterpiece of drunken failure, 1979’s Like Flies on Sherbet.

But there’s almost no follow-up. At least not for five years. Official word to this day cites Howard’s ‘writer’s block,” but I recall hearing, back then, that smack was the case. Out of nowhere, in 1992, it finally arrives, on Elektra, and it’s a doozy. I’m Never Gonna Die Again has critics jumping in each others’ arms, but the rekkid disappears as quickly as it arrives. I had to buy it second hand – another of my greatest finds – from one of those “some poor junkie must have died for them to be selling this” sidewalk sales in DC in 1993.

Both SST releases deserve reissue, but I’m unaware of it ever having happened stateside. I’m also too lazy to check, comments-lurkers. But the story continues from there, despite little output since 1992; a track on a Tom Waits tribute, other random stuff. Howard worked with Lydia Lunch, and dropped a solo album a few years ago, and while welcome, it paled, and sounded harried by hard living, just not in a good way. Even worse, Epic Soundtracks killed himself in 1997, and the other two, well, I can’t find much info.

Someone has created a myspace page for them, which is weird considering they haven’t functioned since 1998.

Fans of TIS could check out the new Australian outfit the Drones – while not all they should be in the songwring department, they get the rough singing and sprawling guitar-thing right. Some writings offer that bands like Black Heart Procession take inspiration from TIS; maybe in tone and atmopshere only. Funnily enough, and I never thought of it before, “King of Kalifornia” reminds me of Afghan Wigs, especially Gentlemen’s aggression crossed with the broader piano and guitar on Congregation.

Please enjoy:

These Immortal Souls – My One-eyed Daughter

These Immortal Souls – Crowned

These Immortal Souls — Shamed

These Immortal Souls — The King of Kalifornia

9 thoughts on “I’ve Been Crowned By Hate

  1. Mr. Parnell:Your favorite band, the Lemonheads, joined up with Epic Soundtracks a few years back. Rowland S. Howard’s best work was with N. Sudden. These Immortal Souls was just the appetizer. OK, on a more serious aside, These Immortal Souls just never inspired me to do much else than find other people who did that sound better. But, even bands like the Wedding Present and the Wonder Stuff (remembe them!) owe a lot to These Immortal Sounds. I just never enjoyed listening to those Birthday Party sounding bands.Nice post.

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  2. Thanks. I have the Sudden/Howard album, <>Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc<>, and while it’s a nice idea, it’s boring, for the most part. Sudden really shouldn’t have collaborated with Howard – it took him away from his strengths. Howard’s guitar playing was not meant for folky pop.Epic Sondtracks’ collabs with Lemonheads probably lead to his heroin and hanging related death. I think I saw him and Dando and Maxwells once, at a Frogs show, high out of their minds. I can understand not liking the Birthday Party, and how that would end any like for TIS. But I wouldn’t think of comparing them to the Wedding Present — or the terribly awful, awful, overrated horror that was the Wonder Stuff — to These Immortal Souls. Wedding Present was, at its core, an Orange Juice inspired pop outfit, and only got dark and loud, with <>Seamonsters<>, way after TIS.

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  3. Mr. Parnell:You helped make my point. The Wedding Present ended up soundimg like TIS and bands that wanted to sound like the Wedding Present also took on a pinch of that sound. I remember when TIS came out on SST, it was kind of like when Sub Pop signed Codeine – theit first non-grunge band. TIS were really out of place on SST, but, those were the day. For the record, TIS also remind me of a band like the Tall Dwarfs, who, by the way, did this Canadian invite all your friend to play on the record thing long before Brok. Soc. scene hit the scene.

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  4. I see your point, & sorry, got it mixed up in my constant foul mood. Wedding Present did somewhat go TIS with one album. <>Watusi<> returned them to form.It was interesting for SST, somewhat, to bring out two TIS records, but then any label, whose second ever release is a Minutemen album, can’t be expected to stay within genre. Even Sub Pop signing Codeine made sense. They were skinny white guys with guitars, albeit fractured and rhythmic and as boring as watching white birches grow. Sub Pop also put out Walkabouts records too around then, so it wasn’t all grunge. I’m glad to hear you share my dismay over the existence of Broken Social Scene. And yeah, you’re right, NZ musicians in the early-mid eighties did the same collective-thing, they just changed their band names all the time so that the NZ government could assume they were giving arts grants to different outfits. Hence the Great Unwashed/Clean/Stephen. The Bats/Magick Heads etc and so on. I’m interested as to how TIS reminds you of Tall Dwarfs in sound? Never saw Tall Dwarfs (or Toy Love etc) as dark, but rather poppy. But not given lightly.

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  5. Mr. Parnell:I get what you are saying for sure. But think back at the time of Sub Pop and pop music. Codeine was way out there, for any label, inlcuding Sub Pop. Nothing else sounded like that. The Tall Twarfs had this “throw everything in the pot sound” but it was all based on very simple song structures and ideas. The same goes for TIS. Lots of sound, but very sructured. That is not a dis, but just how I always saw it. Not like Tom Waits who expanded beyond the usual pop progressions and ideas.Funny, the more I hear TIS, the more they sound less weird and more standard. Two guitar lines, piano playing simple chords, not as dramatic as when it first came out. Bottom line for me, other bands were far catchier than TIS, and at the time, there were 40-50 bands I would rather invest in. For example, Opal may not have been great, but they were better.

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  6. While TIS may not have wandered much from standard rock arrangements and chord progression, no one in Tall Dwarfs or Opal could play/write for guitar like Rowland S. Howard. Not many people can now, or did then. Nor sing like him. And I do have to say that Soundtracks plays the shit out of those drums.Always loved what Tall Dwarfs did. I may break out their vinyl tomorrow. Thanks for bringing them up.I never thought Waits wrote complicated songs, at least not musically. Many are straight blues. His arrangements and lyrical collaborations with his wife, after <>Swordfishtrombones<>, get interesting, because he’s ripping off Beefheart, and his session players are dynamite. But he’s really, at base, a very great bar pianist, based in cabaret, with a diverting love for Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart.There are bands circa 1987-92 that I place above TIS, sure; but Opal? You’re kidding, right? For spawning the soft-rock horror that was the indie Air Supply — Mazzy Star — alone, I despise them. Opal was as boring as tax forms. They were the perfect example of a band loving The Velvet Underground too much. And talk about simple, jesus. It doesn’t take much skill to drone. I won’t even bother getting into it on this one. Next thing you know, we’ll be arguing about the genius of Curve, or worse: Velocity Girl.

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  7. Mr. Parnell:Quick point. I was only trying to say that I do not dig TIS and I brought up Opal because they are fairl boring. Not trying to dis your taste, but TIS are really an aquired taste. You are probably a Nick Cave fan too, which is fine, but that whole chunk of indie just never set my world on fire.

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  8. <>Bottom line for me, other bands were far catchier than TIS, and at the time, there were 40-50 bands I would rather invest in. For example, Opal may not have been great, but they were better.<> is what you said, and then you said<>I was only trying to say that I do not dig TIS and I brought up Opal because they are fairl boring.<>And I was saying you were wrong. Opal was much worse, much simpler, much less interesting than TIS, much less worth investng in, and I went into why — number one being that they unleashed Mazzy Star. Please disagree with me, but please don’t backtrack. And yeah, I like 56% of Nick Cave’s stuff. But so should you.

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