Album Review: Crime and the City Solution’s American Twilight

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Crime and the City Solution

American Twilight

Mute Records

Release Date: March 26, 2013

 

Track Listing

1.      Goddess

2.      My Love Takes Me There

3.      Riven Man

4.      Domina

5.      The Colonel

6.      Beyond Good and Evil

7.      American Twilight

8.      Streets of West Memphis

 

Personnel

Simon Bonney – vocals

Brownyn Adams – violin

Alexander Hacke – guitar

Mick Harvey – drums

David Eugene Edwards – guitar

Troy Gregory – bass

Chrislo Haas – Korg patchbay synth

 

 

Originally formed when vocalist Simon Bonney was just 16, Crime and the City Solution’s earliest performances reverberated throughout Sydney, Australia and Melbourne, Australia’s art rock and post-punk scenes – and interestingly, in both cities, the band had a completely different lineup.  By 1984, the Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey convinced Bonney to relocate to London. Bonney and Harvey enlisted former Birthday Party members Rowland S. Howard on guitar and his brother, Harry on bass to complete the London lineup. (Epic Soundtracks later joined and played drums, allowing Harvey to concentrate on keyboards.) But after the release of two, critically applauded full-length albums, a couple of EPs and a lengthy tour through Europe and the US, the London lineup called it a day with a dramatic swansong in the Wim Winders film, Wings of Desire.

   Bonney relocated again – this time to Berlin, Germany. In interviews, he has said that his time in Berlin was the most fruitful time for him as an artist, and the Berlin incarnation of Crime and the City Solution was when he found his most honest, most true artistic voice – instead of the post punk influence of his native Australia, the band’s sound took on a more experimental approach. And while in Berlin, the band released three full-length albums of original material and a live album before calling it quits – seemingly for good in 1991.

   Over twenty years from the release of their last album, Bonney had relocated to Detroit with members of the Berlin incarnation of the band – first, to write and record material that would wind up becoming, American Twilight, the band’s first album in over twenty years, and to rehearse for a North American and European tour, which was well-received. Much like their previous releases, their new effort is heavily influenced by their immediate surroundings, taking on a mythic quality in a similar fashion to that of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum did. Album opener “Goddess” reminds me a bit of the Church’s “Reptile” with the same dusty, gritty feel but somehow grimier. “My Love Takes Me There” with its soaring choruses feels as though it were inspired by gospel and Motown. “Riven Man” has a bluesy swagger

 

 “Streets of West Memphis” thematically is related to U2’s “Angels of Harlem” but instead of a hushed, almost hagiographic feel, the track offers a sardonic point of view, exposing a raw and tangled nerve of emptiness, hypocrisy and greed. “American Twilight” is the most sinister song on the album – it’s the soundtrack of broken, confused, angry populace seeing it’s way of life (whether mythic or true) disappearing before their eyes without knowing when or how it happened.

   But what makes American Twilight so completely different is that thematically from U2’s mid 80s output, is that this album it focuses on the collapse of the so-called American Empire. Once I had listened to the album while reading a book on Jim Jones and Jonestown and the entire album managed to emphasize and capture Jones’ paranoid delusions and his enormous ego, his followers lost hopes and isolation in a way that fucked with my head for days. For a band that seemingly disappeared, this album is a momentous, powerfully unnerving statement and a forceful return.

 

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