Crime & The City Solution: American Twilight – album review
Crime & The City Solution – American Twilight (Mute)
Out 25th March 2013
Twenty three years after the release of their last Mute album, Paradise Discotheque (1990), the renowned Crime & The City Solution jubilantly return (once more on Mute) with the provocative American Twilight.
As the title implies, American Twilight is in part Crime’s lead singer & songwriter Simon Bonney’s exhilarating vision of the collapse of the unholy American Empire, obviously influence by the group’s resurrection in the crumbling urban edifice that was the mighty Motor City, Detroit, USA.
The sounds of the town that sired such seminal groups as The Stooges, The MC5, Funkadelic and Tamla Motown studio have inveigled their way into Bonney’s revitalised band. Blending with all manner of American music’s, elements of Krautrock and his abiding love of his native Australian country music. Bonney, together with what has become know as ‘Berlin era Crime’ members Bronwyn Adams (co-lyric writer/violin) and Einsturzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke (guitar) and new recruits the incredible drummer Jim White of The Dirty Three, keyboardist Matthew Smith (Outrageous Cherry, Volebeats), guitarist David Eugene Edwards (16 Horsepower) and visual artist Danielle de Picciotto, has fashioned perhaps the best Crime & The City Solution album to date.
For the uninitiated, a brief, shorthand history of Crime is now probably required to bring the forthcoming account of American Twilight into sharper relief. A very young Bonney formed Crime & The City Solution during the late 70s in Australia and early Sydney shows had a profound influence upon the members of the emerging Melbourne punk and post scene. During 1984, founding Bad Seed member Mick Harvey brought Bonney to London to form a Crime line-up with the late, great former Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard, his brother Harry on bass and the late Epic Soundtracks from The Swell Maps on drums. This ‘London’ incarnation of Crime produced the criminally (pun intended) overlooked Room Of Lights (1986) album and two EPs. The existence of this Crime & The City Solution was immortalised with a tremendous performance of ‘Six Bells Chime’ in Wim Wenders’ debatably overrated art house 1987 hit, Wings Of Desire.
Cut. When the Howard brothers and Soundtracks left to form their own band (These Immortal Souls), a second version of Crime & The City Solution began in the suitably forbidding yet inspiring setting of late 80s Berlin. Judged by Bonney and many others to be a more sonically exploratory and experimental manifestation of the band, this Crime recorded three studio albums from 1986 until implosion in 1991 (Shine, The Bride Ship, Paradise Discotheque), with Berliner Hacke, DAF synth player Chrislo Haas, jazz bassist Thomas Stern, and Australians Adams and Harvey on drums.
Which brings us to the present. Any knowledge, or even appreciation, of Crime’s previous achievements is of not much importance in relation to appreciating the bravura American Twilight. The album opens in fine, triumphant style with the recent single ‘Goddess’, an openly celebratory song, perhaps for Bonney’s evidently reignited creative muse. The rock attack of ‘Goddess’ continues with the elevating ‘My Love Takes Me There’. Driven by White’s shuffling drums, a horn section, and choir, ‘My Love Takes Me There’ is one part Motorhead, the other gospel revival festivity.
The propulsive ‘Riven Man’ swaggers a mutant southern boogie groove that is equally fired up by Neu!’s Motorik style. “You’ve got to move, you’ve to move” is the chorus, perpetual motion the solution to every ailment, emotional state and adversity. The grand ‘Domina’ freely embraces country moods and stylings before volcanic swells of Hacke’s and Edwards’ guitars, together with Adam’s violin, detonate this song of longing and desire.
The stark and dramatic epic ‘The Colonel (Doesn’t Call Anymore’)” maybe alludes (with the aid of a rhyming dictionary) to Bonney and the bands years in the wilderness (“press gang crew, mutiny, wolves roam, impunity”), while ‘Beyond Good And Evil’ mines the rich seam of Australian country music for inspiration for Bonney’s heartfelt tale “of just a beggar and a thief, holding on to the suspension of disbelief.”
The title track could possibly be the stand out number; a rocking, driven account of the dog-eat-dog hardship (everybody wants to be number one”) prevalent in post-economic crash / post Imperial America. “Whole lot of birds in the sky above, looks like hawks and you’re the dove, Aloha motherfucker!” Fusing the pulsing music of Detroit’s (“the city of fun”) past (this could be the best song The Stooges or the Mc5 never wrote), ‘American Twilight’ inexorably builds into an unstoppable juggernaut, equal parts old time religion malevolence and defiance. The beautiful country influenced lament ‘Streets of West Memphis’ could, and should, have been used on the soundtrack of the recent documentary charting all American injustice, West of Memphis.
If this is twilights last gleaming, then long let it shine on. Crime & The City Solution abide.
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.