Crime + The City Solution -and- Simon Bonney -- Criminally underrated bands part 1

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 21, 2008 10:51pm | Post a Comment

Crime & the City Solution 31 December, 1977
Crime & the City Solution 31 December, 1977 (image source: Phil Turnbull)

It seems that almost from their inception the band Crime & The City Solution they were cursed to never be spoken of without a mention of famous Australian Nick Cave. It's really no one's fault. They were part of a incestuous web of musicians with frequent Nick Cave collaborator Mick Harvey at the center, a man who though a talented multi-instrumentalist, can only play one one band at a time, resulting in other pursuits being put on hold whilst he focused on his main gig.

Crime & The City Solution formed in Sydney, Australia in 1977. Their original line-up included vocalist Simon Bonney (the band's only permanent member, fresh from a brief stint with The Particles), Don McLennan on drums, Harry Zanteni on guitar, Phil Kitchener on bass and Dave MacKinnon on soprano and tenor saxophones. Simon Bonney, whilst born in Australia proper, had grown up on a remote farm in Tasmania where his family grew wheat, barley and opium poppies before he moved to Sydney.

Crime and the City Solution October 1978
Crime & The City Solution -- October, 1978 (photo credit: Inner City Sound)

Bonney went to Melbourne in October, 1978 and saw Boys Next Door play at the Tiger Lounge. In November, McClennan and Bonney stay in Melbourne due to lack of funds for return fare to Sydney, thus ending version one of Crime & The City Solution. Bonney also meets Bronwyn Adams whom he would marry and who would contribute to the lyric-writing process before adding her haunting violin to the band's sound years later. 

In 1979, Crime & the City Solution formed  a new line-up in Melbourne with Dan Wallace-Crabbe taking over guitar, Kim Beissel replacing Dave MacKinnon (on Mick Harvey's recommendation), Lindsay O'Meara handling bass and Chris Astley joining on keyboards. The band recorded a handful of demos and some live performances are available; the recordings are interesting. Simon Bonney's distinct, moaning vocals are immediately recognizable. The music sounds very much of its time -- kind of a dark, brittle post-punk with saxophone that makes it sound vaguely like Doctors of Madness or Roxy Music. It's a bit raw but superior to early Boys Next Door, who aside from their cover of the Young Charlatans "Shivers," were pretty awful. [Note: If you have the Young Charlatans demos, please let me know.]

The track "Moments" later appeared on the 1981 compilation cassette that came with the magazine Fast Forward and other songs are later sold by the band as Rarities in 1986. The Boys Next Door progressed quickly, however, and soon Crime performed a few times as their opening act, beginning in May 1979. In July Beissel passes their demo to Missing Link's Keith Glass (and Boys Next Door's manager). In August they have residencies first at Pierre's World and then the Exford Hotel after which Astley was kicked out of the band and Beissel departed with him. The band played one final show in December with a substitute filling in before going quiet.

The Boys Next Door, by their second album, 1980's Birthday Party, pursued (thankfully) a sound very different from the mostly bland predecessor of the previous year, Door, Door. Now the band careened through a cacophonous terrain owing a lot to The Cramps whilst seeming to absorb a bit from Crime & the City Solution's post-punk take on The Doors (and, as I remember reading in a book, Bonney's "cocktail shaker pose") as well. The Boys Next Door relocated to London, signed to the 4AD record label and got huge. Meanwhile, Crime & the City Solution remained silent. I'm tempted to make the analogy of the story of Hedwig and Tommy Gnosis but, to be fair, The Birthday Party was an amazing band with a lot of talent. Rowland S. Howard, The Birthday Party's guitarist and writer of some of the band's most amazing songs and Nick Cave disbanded the group in August, 1983.

The Dangling Man EP Just South of Heaven

Late in '83, Mick Harvey called Simon Bonney and organized for him and Bronwyn Adams to move to London. At some point in 1984, Bonney and Harvey recorded two demos, "One Strip Rider" and "Adventure," with Harvey on all instruments. 

In December 1984, a new line-up of Crime & the City Solution formed with The Birthday Party's Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey joining and Rowland's brother Harry playing bass. Epic Soundtracks joined on drums in May 1985. This line-up released The Dangling Man 12" and the Just South of Heaven mini-LP as well as Just South of Heaven (on CD including tracks from the previous two recordings minus "Shakin' Chill," "At the Crossroads, "The Last Day" and "Stolen & Stealing"). This line-up bore, predictably, some similarities to the mourned, defunct Birthday Party (Harry Howard had filled in for Birthday Party's Tracy Pew) and since they were regarded as a new band, often looked at as imitators rather than confreres churning out a similar but distinct form of aggressive, distorted rhythm & blues.

  Check out those line-ups!

In October 1985 Crime relocated to Berlin. 1986 the band successfully toured Australia, Europe and the USA. At the same time, Rowland S. Howard starts his own band with Epic Soundtracks, Harry Howard and his girlfriend/keyboardist, Genevieve McGuckin, These Immortal Souls. Late in the summer, Crime and the City Solution recorded their proper debut, Room of Lights, nine years after forming (whilst Harvey also records Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' fourth album and (in my estimation) first absolute masterpiece, Your Funeral... My Trial).

Room of Lights

In November 1986 Crime appeared (as did Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) in Wim Wenders' Der Himmel über Berlin (hideously translated into English as Wings of Desire). The so-called London line-up play four more shows before breaking up and in December, Bonney and Adams moved in with Harvey.

In January 1987, Bonney takes on work as a roadie for Scratch Acid. In July Adams edits Nick Cave's debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel. Cave later claims that Adams deserved even more credit in the novel's creation. Meanwhile a new line-up of Crime and the City Solution is formed with Adams on violin, Chrislo Hass  (from D.A.F. and Liaisons Dangereuses) on synthesizer, Christiane F's ex-boyfriend Alexander Hacke (from Einstürzende Neubauten) on guitar (with Einsturzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld continuing to play in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) and Thomas Stern on bass. This line-up moved into radically different territory -- a vast, romantic, cinematic expressiveness marked all of the band's subsequent endeavors. It should've ended the comparisons to Cave and company, (who'd gone down their own path) but it didn't.

crime and the city solution shine

This line-up released 1988's "On Every Train/All Must Be Love" and the amazing album, Shine, which they recorded in August, 1987 (followed by Harvey working on The Bad Seeds' Tender Prey). Also in August they appeared in "Kings of Independence" alongside Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Swans

In August the band begin recording The Bride Ship. In September 1988, with Hacke touring with Einsturzende Neubauten, Kid Congo Powers (The Gun Club and The Bad Seeds) fills in for the band's only Eastern European tour, one which sees them sharing a stage with These Immortal Souls in Austria.

Crime and the city Solution - The Bride Ship

Early in 1989, Bonney and Adams relocate to Vienna. A few months later Crime & the City Solution released "The Shadow of No Man" and The Bride Ship. The band played several times whilst Hacke toured with Einsturzende Neubauten and Harvey with The Bad Seeds (who also recorded The Good Son that year). Toward the end of the year they began recording tracks for Paradise Discotheque

In 1990 they released the singles "I Have the Gun" and "The Dolphins and the Sharks" off the Paradise Discotheque album, released in September.

Crime and the City Solution

The following year Wim Wenders asked them to score his film Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World), for which they instead contributed only one song (albeit one of their best), "The Adversary." The band play their last show in August 1991 after which Bonney and Adams move to Los Angeles and Crime & The City Solution are effectively no more.

In 1992, Simon Bonney made a solo record with collaborations from his wife and country musician J.D. Foster, resulting in the album Forever, which married the last version of Crime & the City Solution's poetic expansiveness to country-inflected tunes appropriate to a guy who's rambled the globe, calling Sydney, Berlin, London, Vienna and Los Angeles his homes at various times.

In 1993 and '94 Bonney recorded another country-infused experiment, a concept album called Everyman, released in 1996. Between 1995 and '98, Bonney worked as a truck driver, key grip, acted occasionally, and studied film direction.

By 1998, Simon had finished recording 
Eyes of Blue with Jim White (Dirty Three) on drums, Matt Smith (Outrageous Cherry and Volebeatson keyboards, Troy Gregory (WitchesThe Dirtbombs,Swans, Prong, Flotsam and Jetsam, Killing Joke, and Spiritualized) on bass, and contributions from Chuck Prophet (Go Go Market and Green On Red). The album was apparently ready for release in 2000 but never appeared except for two songs, "The Lonely Stars" and "Water's Edge" in the film Underworld (but not on the soundtrack) in 2003.

In 2001, Bonney, Adams and their family moved to 
Canberra, Australia where Bonney worked for thegovernement and studying for a PhD (in regulation/justice/diplomacy). In 2004, Haas died from heart failure exacerbated by alcohol abuse. 

Since writing this a lot has happened. The title track appeared on YouTube. Oh, and Crime & the City Solution re-formed with a line-up that includes past collaborators Bonney, Gregory, Hacke, Smith, and White as well as David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower and Wovenhand) on guitar and Danielle di Picciotto on visuals.
Crime & the City Solution

They got name-checked as an influence by the likes of Mark Lanegan, Coliseum, The Drones, Devastations, Pins and Needles, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They went on tour again (I saw them in November, 2012 and they were great), and they've got a brand new album, American Twilight, coming out on 26, March 2013.

Crime & The City Solution American Twilight
Special thanks to From The Archives and Clinton Walker's Inner City Sound (also an amazing music compilation) for the invaluable information.

Relevant Tags

1990s (42), 1970s (41), 1980s (49), D.a.f. (3), Wim Wenders (1), The Birthday Party (2), Rowland S. Howard (3), Post-punk (7), Boys Next Door (2), Simon Bonney (1), Nick Cave (15), Crime & The City Solution (2), Crime And The City Solution (2), Einsturzende Neubauten (1), Mick Harvey (1), Australia (11), Tasmania (1)