Review | Monday 27 February 2012
The late Rowland S. Howard, elegant gloom poet of Melbourne’s early post-punk scene, is given worthy valediction in this illuminating documentary. So fully transformed was Nick Cave’s band of high-school noise-makers, The Boys Next Door, by the introduction of Howard’s electric fretboarding that they were compelled to rebrand as The Birthday Party. That band’s supernovic legacy is now the stuff of infamy. For Howard, These Immortal Souls followed, where he claimed his rightful spot as a frontman, along with two seminal solo albums in Teenage Snuff Film and Pop Crimes. A cast of alt-cultural luminaries – including Cave, Wim Wenders, Lydia Lunch and Henry Rollins – are on hand here to intone their honour. But what really distinguishes Autoluminescent from other commemorative rock docs is the living presence of Howard himself – fortunately, production was well underway at the time of his death from liver cancer at age 50 in late 2009. Essential viewing.
Gerard Elson works at Readings St Kilda.