These Immortal Souls

  • These Immortal Souls
  • Get Lost (Don't Lie!) (SST) 1987 
  • I'm Never Gonna Die Again (Mute) 1992 

The members of this band have been around the block a few times. First there was the Birthday Party, from the ashes of which arose Crime and the City Solution with ex- Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard. After two years and three releases, Howard had his differences with singer Simon Bonney and left, taking his bass-playing brother Harry and drummer Epic Soundtracks (ex-Swell Maps/Jacobites) with him. Adding keyboardist Genevieve McGuckin, he formed These Immortal Souls in 1987.

The 30-minute Get Lost (Don’t Lie!) mini-LP works as well as, if not better than, any Crime and the City Solution record. Howard can’t really sing much, but this doesn’t require him to: the shady lyricism which underlies all seven tracks would lose its color if sung by someone more conscious of pitch than self. McGuckin has listened to plenty of Ray Manzarek; Soundtracks turns in brilliant performances. Most of the guitar work is acoustic strumming, although Howard does allow himself to cut loose on “‘Blood and Sand’ She Said.” A very impressive marriage of splendor and squalor.

After Get Lost (Don’t Lie!), the group did a tour and then wasn’t heard from again for several years. In fact, there was little further recorded evidence of Howard until his 1991 Shotgun Wedding album with Lydia Lunch and the reunion of These Immortal Souls the following year. I’m Never Gonna Die Again brings the four original members back together, joined by guest (and onetime Waterboy) Anthony Thistlethwaite (sax, slide mandolin), for another gritty, dramatic dose of loosely fraught rock. Not that far in sound or spirit from the point where the old Gun Club met Nick Cave’s early solo work (although lyrical bits of the guitar tension owe something to Television as well), the album pairs Howard’s lazy, artless voice with jagged, sweeping music that draws blood as it pulls its thorns across the landscape. “Welcome the kiss of sugar splinters / The sting of frozen candied kisses.” Demonstrating expanded stylistic range, “So the Story Goes” treats a doo-wop structure to a shocking razor burn, while the melodic song power of “Hyperspace” mounts a serious challenge to the carefully calibrated sonic aggression. The American CD has three bonus tracks, including a rangy live version of “My One-Eyed Daughter.”

[Dave Sheridan / Ira Robbins]

See also: Birthday Party, Crime and the City Solution, Lydia Lunch, Epic Soundtracks