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Crime & The City Solution and Simon Bonney -- Criminally Underrated

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 21, 2008 10:51pm | Post a Comment
CRIME & THE CITY SOLUTION

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 Sydney, had spent some time on his family's remote farm in Tasmania where his they grew wheat, barley and opium poppies.

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 stayed in Melbourne supposedly due to lack of funds for return fare, thus ending the Sydney version of Crime & The City Solution. Bonney also met Bronwyn Adams whom he would marry and who would later contribute to the lyric-writing process and add her haunting violin to the band's sound. 

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 (supposedly 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 in my opinion superior to early Boys Next Door, before Rowland S. Howard left Young Charlatans and brought with him "Shivers." [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 were sold by the band as Rarities in 1986. The Boys Next Door improved quickly and beginning in May 1979, Crime performed a few times as their opening act. In July Beissel passed their demo to Missing Link's (and Boys Next Door's manager) Keith Glass. In August they had 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 dormant.

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 some book, Bonney's "cocktail shaker" stage moves). 

The Boys Next Door relocated to London, signed to 4AD record label and got fairly 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 were an amazing band. 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 Bronwyn Adams and him to relocate to London. At some point in 1984, Bonney and Harvey recorded two demos, "One Strip Rider" and "Adventure," with Harvey performing all of the 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 Rowland's brother Harry on 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 much mourned, by-then-defunct Birthday Party. Harry Howard had filled in for Birthday Party's Tracy Pew and because of their shared members and aesthetic, the London Crime were unfairly regarded as a new band formed to ride on The Birthday Party's coattails rather than as competent confreres churning out a similar but distinct form of dirgey, distorted rhythm & blues.


  Check out those line-ups!

In October 1985 Crime relocated to Berlin. In 1986 the band toured Australia, Europe and the USA. At the same time, Rowland S. Howard started his own band with Epic Soundtracks, Harry Howard and his girlfriend/keyboardist, Genevieve McGuckin, the immortal These Immortal Souls. Late in the summer, Crime and the City Solution recorded their proper full-length studio 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 played just four more shows before breaking up and in December, Bonney and Adams moved in with Harvey.



In January 1987, Bonney took on work as a roadie for Scratch Acid. In July, Adams edited Nick Cave's debut novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel which Cave later claimed deserved should've resulted in her being credited with a larger role in the novel's creation. 

Meanwhile a new line-up of Crime and the City Solution, the so-called Berlin Crime, 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 (whilst Einsturzende Neubauten's Blixa Bargeld continued 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 and should've ended comparisons with Cave and crew and perhaps prompted some with The Triffids but they continued to lurk, in the mind of many journalists, in Cave's wake.


crime and the city solution shine

The Berlin line-up released 1988's "On Every Train" b/w "All Must Be Love" and the amazing, attendant album, Shine, which they recorded in August, 1987, after which Harvey went off to work on The Bad Seeds' Tender Prey. Also in August, alongside Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and Swans, they appeared in Kings of Independence.



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


Crime and the city Solution - The Bride Ship

Early in 1989, Bonney and Adams relocated 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 what would be their final album for some time, 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 they contributed one of their best songs, "The Adversary," to Wim Wender's ambitious and flawed Bis ans Ende der Welt (Until the End of the World). The band played their last show in August 1991 after which Bonney and Adams moved to Los Angeles and Crime & The City Solution were no more.



In 1992, Simon Bonney made an excellent solo record with collaborations from his wife and country musician J.D. Foster (among others) which resulted in the album, Forever, which married the  poetic expansiveness of the Berlin Crime 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 brilliant country-infused experiment, a concept album called Everyman, which was 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 (of the Dirty Three) on drums, Matt Smith (of Outrageous Cherry and Volebeats) on keyboards, Troy Gregory (of Witches, The Dirtbombs, Swans, Prong, Flotsam and Jetsam, Killing Joke, and Spiritualized) on bass, and contributions from Chuck Prophet (of 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 2010, Bonney posted "Annabelle-Lee," "Eyes of Blue," and "Can't Believe Anymore" on his Myspace page.

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. 



*****

UPDATE:
 Since originally writing this article 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 (of 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand) on guitar and Danielle di Picciotto on visuals.

Crime & the City Solution

Crime & the City Solution have been 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 brilliant), 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.

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Tasmania (1), Australia (12), Mick Harvey (1), Einsturzende Neubauten (1), Crime And The City Solution (2), Crime & The City Solution (1), Nick Cave (17), Simon Bonney (1), Boys Next Door (2), Post-punk (8), Rowland S. Howard (3), The Birthday Party (2), Wim Wenders (1), D.a.f. (3), 1980s (49), 1970s (41), 1990s (42)