Singer/songwriter Rowland S. Howard hailed from the early Melbourne punk scene where at the age of 16 he wrote ‘Shivers’; a frequently misinterpreted cynical masterpiece about over-dramatised teenage heartbreak. Howard’s abrasive and revolutionary guitar playing drew acclaim from the likes of Kevin Shield (My Bloody Valentine), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag), however, his early career playing in Melbourne, London and Berlin saw him in the shadow of fellow Birthday Party member Nick Cave. A tragic romantic and frustrated artist, Howard found a new surge of professional and personal fulfilment, plus wider recognition, just prior to his death at the age of 50 in 2009.
Directed by Richard Lowenstein and Lynn-Maree Milburn, Autoluminescent contains extensive interviews with Howard, who speaks with eloquent and intelligent self-awareness. The documentary also includes revealing interviews with friends, family and colleagues, including Cave, Mick Harvey, Wim Wenders and Lydia Lunch. The resulting portrait of Howard is affectionate, complex and engaging. Most important is the amount of music included in the film, which weaves its way through the narrative to brilliantly encapsulate his legacy.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 392, 2011