Crime & The City Solution C-Club, Berlin Wednesday 31 October, 2012
Being aware of their seminal influence on a later generation of musicians in Australia and Europe, and barely legal when they last played shows, I was curious to witness the Crime and The City Solution. Revered for their moody, pulsing gothic rock, they were associated with and often compared to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, with whom they shared London and Berlin-era members Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard. As before, a new era brings a new incarnation and Bonney has cleverly pulled together central players from the experimental end of the cult rock scene, with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke and 16 Horsepower/Wovenhand’s David Eugene Edwards on guitars, The Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums and Dirtbombs/Spiritualized bassist Troy Gregory alongside Bonney’s partner and violinist Bronwyn Adams.
Live, this new lineup melds motorik Berlin and Chicago post-rock rhythms, Detroit decay and fuzz with mile-high Southern Americana. With his cream suit and dandyish dancing, Bonney’s stage presence is more Bryan Ferry than Southern preacher, but his arrhythmic monologues are the taut leashes that restrain a carnal racket driven, in particular, by the physicality of Hacke and White’s playing.
This last show of the new tour feels like a homecoming. I hear German, English, Dutch, Italian and Russian spoken in the crowd and many here have flown in after other shows on the tour. Their first words, echoed by the crowd, are “You know me. My name is Queeg. I sail the good ship ‘Succeed’”, and so the band opens strongly with 1989’s The Bride Ship. The Moorish riff and primal grinding beat sounds less metallic than the original and more muscular in these new hands. This will be the defining sound of the show – hypnotic, psychedelic tension just on the verge of ripping your head off.
The Colonel Doesn’t Call Anymore comes from the new album. The song is a dynamic rollercoaster, ringing Gretsch guitar buildups and hoovering noise exploding into brief but pummelling choruses, and sees Bronwyn Adams shredding her violin bow by the end, her head back and shaking in what looks like ecstasy.
As the show progresses, Hacke takes the role of musical director, bellowing changes back to the rhythm section. He is the locomotive, propelling the band while he manhandles his guitar. After early crowd favourite Rose Blue raises a huge cheer, Bonney acknowledges the crowd for the first time with a simple, “It is nice to be back.” Steal To The Sea off first Berlin album Shine builds up a ferocious slide-fuelled drone. Jim White is almost dancing across the drumkit, wheeling arms wielding huge mallets. David Eugene Edwards takes a cooler, more menacing stance, staring down the audience and providing jangling guitar as well as sheets of noise. After a raucous version of I Have The Gun and second new track My Love Takes Me There, comes for me, the emotional highpoint of the show. On Hunter, the band achieved unity of purpose, fanging it through to a chanted outro, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Gregory and White get the crowd dancing with the galloping On Every Train Grain Will Bear Grain, lit up by Edwards’ comparatively upbeat guitar jangle and Adams’ beatific smile and violin.
Bonney has previously said he only writes songs about love or songs about power struggles, and The Dictator I and II, his “cautionary tales” from 1990’s Paradise Discotheque, are angular, surreal, almost free-jazz takes on the latter. The band builds a distinct Doors-esque vibe that segues nicely into the steady rock groove of The Dolphins & The Sharks. Hacke introduces the band before the band crack out the slow, heavy crowd-pleasing build of All Must Be Love. There is a lot of love in the room as they leave the stage.
They could not leave without an encore and they couldn’t leave without reprising their most famous song, Six Bells Chime, famously used in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. The audience indulges in some gloriously gothy dance moves over the song’s pelvic groove. The set is backed by VJ Danielle de Picciotto’s surreal visual mash-up of woodcuts, lush melting flowers, flame and shiny stars falling from the sky, but for new song and our final “cautionary tale” American Twilight, she simply shows us poignant photographs of Detroit’s many burned-out houses, an epidemic of evil, gleeful unrest scored by this dirty and strangely triumphant stomp. The evolution of the band is clearest in this song with its freak-funk guitar and pounding beat, and where all members gather at microphones to chant “City of Fuuuun”. At this end of the show, red-dressed Bronwyn is beaming, almost flinging glee at the audience, arms spread, riding the band’s driving noise and build and, finally, the last to leave. City of Fuuuun. City of Fuuuun.
Crime & The City Solution has much in common with The Triffids, another influential Australian band that chose to explore continent-sized spacious gothic rock from the cultural shelter of Europe. While Crime and the City Solution’s songs are less succinct and obviously melodic than The Triffids’, they share a mastery of dynamics and claustrophobia, as well as the lyrical sensibilities, and stentorian sermons of their lead singers/songwriters. But now, as then, the band’s primary concern is not melody but fervour, or even fever. They walk the wire between Bonney’s mannered, rambling spoken word and the band’s feral sonic urges, a cause the new lineup has taken up admirably. There is palpable enthusiasm and fresh energy on stage, particularly in the new songs.