The crew of swaggering musicians that makes up Crime & the City Solution have quite a history. And it’s okay if that’s news to your good self - they’ve been out of the limelight for a couple of decades. We last left them with three studio and one live album in Berlin (1986 - 1991), hitched up with a host of interesting and musical mavericks like Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alex Hacke on guitar, ex-DAF/Liaisons Dangereuses electronic genius Chrislo Haas on vintage Korg, free jazz trio bassist Thomas Stern, Bad Seed Mick Harvey on drums and even a lyrical collaborator and violinist Bronwyn Adams.
Indeed international boundaries are no great issue for this musical troupe. They've got Europe covered and their beginnings? Initial murmurings surfaced in Australia with lead singer Simon Bonney gigging at the tender age of 16, doing his thing round Sydney. About this time, he soon got fixed up with the Melbourne post punk scene, mixing with the right outsider crowd and mingled with members of The Boys Next Door (later known as The Birthday Party). There was a bit of gap in activity between 1979 and 1983. At this point Bonney shifted to London and this sealed his fate for decades to come as the late Rowland S Howard and Mick Harvey of the Bad Seeds reconnected with the project, got more involved and became members. This led to the first Crime release on Mute records, a six track EP Just South of Heaven.
Then there is the latest incarnation, which covers the continent known as North America, beaming Crime straight into Detroit. Hacke remains on guitar with Adams on violin, but this time they joined by the likes of visual artist Danielle de Picciotto, drummer Jim White from Dirty Three/Cat Power and David Eugene Edwards from the likes of 16 Horsepower. The overall result is music that has a dirty primal swamp rock blues edge that other bands of the Nineties like Electrofixion or Gallon Drunk might clamber for.
The eight song American Twilight starts firmly with the grungy guitar sounds of single ‘Goddess’, full of guitar haunting solos and cigar and whisky vocals topped fronted with poetic lyrics "Love the light of which you give / A human touch eternal gift / Against the dark a gentle face / I celebrate your sensual grace / Oh Goddess". The pace of this song powers along tracks ‘My Love Takes Me There’ and ‘Riven Man’. The rest of the album drops off to reveal an introspective slow motion western/blues type soundtrack with songs like ‘Dominion’ that invoke a serious sun setting vibe, making good use of the whammy bar. Then there is album closer 'Streets of West Memphis'. It could have easily been a bit of a deary Sunday at the almost deserted saloon do, but what saves it is Crime’s musical expertise and arrangement skills, stirring the ear up by mixing the usual male vocal with a foreboding female vocal that develops into dramatically memorable ending. The exception to this downturn in pace is the title track ‘American Twilight’, which rears its head in between the slowies. And of course there’s an exception, Crime do nothing but provide little musical surprises within songs and as a whole, surprises that reward attentive listening. This song for example chugs along militantly with trumpet, distraught guitar and a vocal chorus, all sandwiched between spoken word and a freaky freeform fade out.
On the surface this album seems like it's a Nineties throwback guitar deal. Further exploration and perseverance reveals a collection of tunes rich with details, awash with well honed musical ideas, thoughtfully arranged vocals and expression filled lyrics. Sometimes you have to hand it to the old hands.