dangling man

 

 

"I went to buy some milk in 1994 and didn't come back until 2010."*

Simon Bonney looks for a Crime revival.

We all knew it was coming to an end. 'The Bad Seed EP', released early in 1983, was frighteningly malevolent, pushing the boundaries of taste and musicality to their creaking limits. That this was followed up at all was a surprise, that the band managed to surpass it with 1984's 'Mutiny!' was a numbing shock. 'Mutiny In Heaven' was quite simply the most extreme record ever made, waves of bile cascading over a brute of a backing track; hurting, and collapsing in on itself with reckless and even gleeful abandon. It was brilliant, shocking, and revealing. Whatever state of mind spawned such a bastard child was not a healthy one and not one that could be nurtured. They had to be put out of their misery and the only surprise was that it ended so politely: some farewell gigs, a thank you, and The Birthday Party were no more.

As one of the world's most exciting, dangerous, innovative and crucial bands splintered, singer Nick Cave took to his own path, gathering bad seeds along the way, while guitarist Rowland S. Howard looked to immerse himself in a new collective that could keep the spitting flame alive. Mick Harvey kept a foot in both camps.

Howard found a kindred spirit in his old friend from Australia Simon Bonney and together they plotted the third coming of Crime & The City Solution. Bonney was the only constant in the group which had already seen incarnations in Sydney and Melbourne, and was now supplemented with new recruits Epic Soundtracks, the former drummer in Swell Maps, and Rowland's brother Harry on bass. Together they made a glorious noise, Bonney's huge voice decorated by Howard's serrated guitar, a beautifully restrained rhythm section, and held together by Harvey's sublime, multi-instrumental talent. Yes, you could hear The Birthday Party in there, but Bonney's almost classical vocals gave the songs an epic feel as Crime poured out their ragged, deconstructed blues. The first record, 'The Dangling Man EP', was released by Mute midway through 1985 with Bonney immediately setting the tone for what was to come, "Lord, won't you cut me down from this hanging tree?" Desolation prevails with the four songs ranging from the crawling desperation of 'The Dangling Man' to the blistering fury of 'The Last Day', the savage doubt of 'At The Crossroads' and the towering rumble of 'Shakin' Chill'. Ridiculously, only one track is readily available on CD.

The six-track mini album 'Just South Of Heaven' followed the same year presenting a more refined sound, edging away from the shattered, stabbing backtracks of The Birthday Party to something more rounded, making more use of the piano and organ, and with less white space aiding relentless, blunt attacks. With Bonney and his wife Bronwyn responsible for all of the lyrics, the music was shared amongst the rest of the band, with two tracks for Rowland Howard, two for Mick Harvey and two for Epic Soundtracks. Again, Bonney sings the blues as blackness and disappointment engulf him; beauty is a fleeting aberration and love the precursor to night, "For down the thorny road we are bound, without light, without sound... it's time we were going, boy, down that old road of sorrow." This is a record that defined the band's sound: haunting, powerful, unremitting and, again, is not to be found as a whole on CD, a terrible shame.

Late 1986 saw the release of the band's debut full length album, 'Room Of Lights' which continued where 'Just South Of Heaven' had left off, Bronwyn Adams providing much of the lyrical content as well as playing violin, with the music a more integrated band effort than before. Certainly not sounding like a group on the brink of destruction this was to be the swansong for the third Crime. In many ways this is a pity for when everything comes together this is impressive stuff: Harvey's 'Hey Sinkiller' is beautifully urgent and uplifting, while Rowland Howard's 'Six Bells Chime' is tension itself, Bonney's vocal scarily evocative. The single 'Adventure' rumbles on a terrific, messy bassline while band composition 'Untouchable' is a glorious backdrop to Bonney's black, emotional vocal.

Following the record's release, the Howard brothers and Soundtracks departed to form These Immortal Souls, though the split was again amicable, inter-band tensions being used as an opportunity for both sides to find the new ground they were seeking. Bonney related to us, "The London Crime was factional but that didn't end the band. In my view Rowland was meant to go off and do his own thing (it was time for him to do that, to be at the front of his own band) and me, I needed to go and do something new that had no connections with the past. For me, that was the Berlin Crime." The new band, relocated to Germany, would consist of Bonney, Adams and Harvey along with Alexander Hacke, formerly of Einst├╝rzende Neubaten, Chrislo Haas and Thomas Stern.

If there were doubts as to how the new band would fare, these were blown out of the water with the release of 'Shine' in 1988, a majestic album which carried Bonney's stamp, the singer contributing to the music of every track as well as writing most of the lyrics. Setting off on a different tack, the opener 'All Must Be Love' could have been recorded by Jim Morrison's younger, more secretive brother: organ, bass and drums heralding what appears to be a more positive message, "She whispered the secret, rang the bell, opened the door and walked right on in. She whispered in secret, "All must be love." ' 'Shine' remains uplifting, reaching dizzying peaks of allurement and emotion; guitars are kept in the background with keyboards and strings dominating powerful arrangements. 'Angel' is quite possibly the best song the band ever recorded; when Bonney sings the word 'Ang-el' it feels like the heavens must crash down: a man with a new light within him. The single 'On Every Train (Grain Will Bear Grain)' is quite beautiful, running gently away with the notion that if real happiness is beyond reach the idea of it can be equally fulfilling, "I would gladly live with you there and I will always be in love with that idea. I could care for you there ... the thought is a treasure, yeah the thought is my treasure." There is still a dangerous edge to it all as seen in the challenging 'Hunter' and the threatening, epic 'Steal To The Sea', with the haunting 'Home Is Far From Here' sealing the triumph.

Two more albums followed: 'The Bride Ship' in 1989 and 'Paradise Discotheque' in 1990; both based on concepts that made it more difficult to identify with the songs emotionally, though both containing moments of considerable splendour. A sadly tidied up version of 'The Dangling Man' reappears on 'The Bride Ship', an album perhaps unfairly labelled as baroque in certain quarters, though it is certainly overpolished. 'Paradise Discotheque' is more accessible, immediately sounding rawer from the opening bars of the single 'I Have The Gun' and its follow-up 'The Dolphins and The Sharks' is a gem, touching in its lovestruck honesty, "You're everything you seem to be; you're the circle that's complete. You're the dolphins and the sharks; you're every part." The second half of the album is dedicated to a four-part epic 'The Last Dictator' which is a fascinating study but not one for those who like their music to thrill their souls. This release was the last hurrah for the band with Bonney and Adams quitting in late 1991 and moving to America where they worked on various solo projects.

And that could have been that until late 2010 when Bonney, now based in Detroit, announced on his Facebook page that he was looking at putting another version of Crime together, a project that gradually fleshed out with Hacke and Bonney talking to Mute Records some months later leading to the singer announcing on 6th September 2011, "The stars have aligned, let the music begin. Mute and Crime are working together again to finish the unfinished. Crime will be recording in the Spring." The new band would consist of Bonney, Adams and Hacke along with Americans David Eugene Edwards, Troy Gregory, Matthew Smith and Jim White, some of whom had featured on Bonney's solo albums. A futher announcement came on 27th September to the effect that, "There will be a tour in Europe (to start with) in October/November 2012. Of course we intend to tour beyond Europe but that depends on so many unknowns at this point - I would say that the US is very likely, with Australia, Japan, South America as hopeful. It is our intention to play songs from the new album as well as (re-interpreted) music from the Berlin Crime. Maybe there's even the possibility of songs from even earlier periods. I'm looking forward to playing live again as much as I am to making the new record, particularly with the new line-up - it'll be a blast."

With Bonney fired up for new challenge there is no doubt the new Crime will deliver. It's a relief to have him back to shake these quiet days.

 

*Bonney on his interview with Swamplandzine (full interview here)

 

jut south of heaven
cirme
room of lights
adventure
shine
the bride ship
the shadow
paradise discotheque
i have the gun