Although singer Simon Bonney had led a series of groups under this odd name, it was only in the wake of the Birthday Party — when guitarist Rowland S. Howard, drummer Mick Harvey and Howard’s bass-playing brother Harry joined — that the Australian band gained international access and recognition.
The Dangling Man, a four-track disc, picks up where the Party ended — a slow, stripped-down, blues-flavored horror show. (Considering that Cave did much the same on his first solo recordings, one wonders if the band didn’t break up out of boredom rather than any serious musical differences.) None of the songs really take off, but it does show promise.
With ex-Swell Map drummer Epic Soundtracks in the lineup, Harvey returned to his old BP role as multi- instrumentalist. Just South of Heaven is cleaner and more powerful: all six tracks work well. Howard’s guitar is as strong as ever, but piano and organ figure just as prominently. A hauntingly beautiful record by a well- integrated band.
Room of Lights, Crime’s first full-length LP, features a noticeably heavier and thicker sound. With the predominance of slow tempos, Bonney’s somewhat unattractive voice and the overly serious lyrics, supplied mostly by violinist Bronwyn Adams, the disc is laboriously endurance- defying. The band seems to be somewhat stunted developmentally: these eight songs are merely variations on previously introduced themes.
Following Room of Lights and an appearance in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Soundtracks and the Howards split to form These Immortal Souls; Bonney, Harvey and Adams resettled in Berlin, where they recruited three local musicians (including Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist Alexander Hacke) and recorded Shine. With Adams’ violin prominent throughout, the overall tone is surprisingly much lighter and livelier; “Fray So Slow” could almost be old Simple Minds. Several other tracks move along nicely and melodically. Listeners who mistakenly thought Howard had been the band’s major creative force will be caught off-guard by this impressive disc.
After Shine, Crime and the City Solution took a decidedly artsy turn, but in an odd throwback direction. Although not as outrageously dramatic as, say, Doctors of Madness nor as elegant as post-Eno Roxy Music, those comparisons are not completely off base. The enhanced melodic sense is supplemented by Bonney’s much improved vocals (or is it vice versa?) on the baroque Bride Ship. While the embellished, fussy production utilizes an intriguing sonic palette, tempos plod along incessantly and the end result is just a distant, detached-sounding band.
Paradise Discotheque is an improvement, with much more warmth and blood in the sound. Several cuts, especially the folksy “I Have the Gun,” are produced simply enough to stand on their own merits. On the down side, the band reveals a penchant for multi-part suite-songs — “The Last Dictator” needs four segments and an entire side to get its point across.