Spin Magazine - May 1988
Nikki Sudden & Rowland S. Howard
Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc (Relativity)
Nikki Sudden, ex-Swell Maps, achieved an apotheosis of Keith Richards/Johnny Thunders acoustic-heart's-blood-poetry on albums like Robespierre's Velvet Basement, reportedly one of Tom Waits's all-time favorites. Rowland S. Howard played guitar for Australia's semilegendary Boys Next Door before he and bandmate Nick Cave formed the Birthday Party and took their swamp-punk to England, where the band imploded after making the scarifying Mutiny EP.
So much for history. Right now, Sudden and Howard are achieving a rare chemistry. They've used the resources of the recording studio to make a duo album even more intensly gripping than Get Lost (Don't Lie), the recent SST release from Howard's new band These Immortal Souls.
In fact, Charabanc (the title is apparently a cut-up of the titles of several books the pair were reading) may be Howard's finest hour. On "Sob Story" he plays electric guitar sort of the way Stuart Gordon directed Reanimator and From Beyond - six-string mayhem guaranteed to slice 'n' dice your brainpan.
Sudden's songs here don't quite rise to the heights of earlier masterworks like "Silver Street," but his "Debutante Blues" will do just fine until Keith Richards's solo album gets finished, and in "Crossroads" he pulls off the next-to-impossible feat of making shopworn Delta blues iconography into something that bears comparison with the originals but is wholly his own. Charabanc may be uneven in spots, and it's deliberately raw. But it kicks like a two-headed mule.
- Robert Palmer