NME - September 21, 1985

"Heaven Can Wait"
Crime and the City Solution - Just South of Heaven (Mute)

Crime and the City Solution's debut EP early this summer, 'The Dangling Man', was no picnic at hanging rock (ahem), but its mini-LP successor gets close to some kind of paradise lost. What a difference five months make.

As you would expect, any group which includes Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard would not sound totally dissimilar to The Birthday Party. And Crime's singer, Simon Bonney, is said to have blueprinted the Nick Cave persona back in Melbourne '78 -- or vice-versa, depending on who you believe - which only adds to the odious comparison. But where 'The Dangling Man' unsuccessfully sought to bust out of the shadow with brute force, 'Just South Of Heaven' glides away into its own niche with a finesse born of justifiable self-confidence.

Since ex-Swell Map Epic Soundtracks joined their ranks, Crime's musical range has widened and filled out with meticulous but offhand-seeming detail. Now, these hillbilly hellhounds resonate with an unexpected spectral beauty, a languid pensiveness lingering in the undertow of their gut-wrench bedsit-black blues. This is the sound The Birthday Party fell short of in 'She's Hit'.

Yes, them again.

Where Harvey, Soundtracks and the Howard brothers are developing into something equally commanding but perhaps more subtle, the shadow thrown by Simon Bonney's whiskey-preaching is that of Old Nick's bat wings. Both he and Cave have worked Morrison's mojo to death, of course, but out of all the possibilities this admittedly narrow style permits, Bonney settles for mere Grand Guignol sufferation. Much of the time he overdoes it and so ends up sounding like Tom Waits throwing up into a fried-egg sandwich, so we may be grateful for printed lyrics to divine what the old ham is going on about.

Well, it's the stench of foul corruption all the way. "Trouble, oh he came this morning" -- yes, most corrupted is da blooz, whose idiom is stretchered in to dignify proceedings. But devoid of the kitsch mythic with which Cave endows it, Bonney's blooz highlight rather than hide an over-ripe play on the dark night of the soul. Imprisoning stone walls, defiled Baudelairean women, coy smack references -- all is impressionistically rarified to the point where it's only fit to provide vowels and consonants for a pair of writhing lungs.

But should Simon Bonney ever outgrow this fetishism, then Crime And The City Solution will achieve the truly distinct greatness promised by this record. They're just a kiss away from the pearly gates.

- Mat Snow