Rowland S. Howard was emerging from his long exile near the end of the decade with guest appearances before recording Pop Crimes in early 2009 with Mick Harvey on drums and organ, and J.P. Shilo on bass (save for a couple of tracks) and violin. The album is a slow, stellarly recorded collection of rough-'round-the-edges rock, with Howard in better voice and showing more energy than on any post-Birthday Party record. The eight-song set includes two covers, including a fantastically moody, hypnotically expressive reading of Talk Talk's "Life's What You Make It." The originals reveal Howard in fine form as a "pop noir" songwriter, from the opener "(I Know) A Girl Called Jonny" (with Johnnie Standish on duet vocals) all the way through to the album's true jewel "The Golden Age of Bloodshed," at its end, with plenty of stops between. On Pop Crimes, Howard's songwriting uses classic elements from early girl group rock, country, and film music, creating infectious melodies that are then often bent by his words to create mood, tension, and texture; they end up sounding temptingly dangerous : think Lee Hazlewood, Ennio Morricone, Doc Pomus, Lou Reed, Phil Spector, and Leon Payne all rolled into one.