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.
These Immortal Souls – My One-eyed Daughter
These Immortal Souls – Crowned
These Immortal Souls — Shamed
These Immortal Souls — The King of Kalifornia