NME - October 5, 1985

Crime & The City Solution - London Electric Screen

They get thinner by the week, these Saturday night audiences at the Electric. I can only put it down to the embalming fluid in the Red Stripe. Crime & the City Solution? But of course! Some bright spark had come up with the solution of rounding up all the city's suspected carriers of contagious malnutrition in one spot. C&CS cultivate this sort of under-the counter-culture drabness - Slime, Grit and Pollution, this was no joyride.

Here's my twopenn'orth of comparison between C&CS and their celebrated forebears. If the Birthday Party were theatre, with Nick Cave putting the Ham back into Hamlet (the Donald Wolfit of pop, as ever was), then C&CS are Atraud goes to Memphis; a confrontational but rigorously Method-ical grapple with the blues, tackling it like scientists vivisecting a dying form, applying scalpel and electrode to the wound.

Musically, C&CS range from a cheerless plod through the mudflats of hell to occasional outbursts of charged-up inspiration, the more disparate the ingredients the better - especially Rowland Howard's guitar, sounding alternatively like a power drill or someone banging on the pipes in the next cell but one. Sometimes playing entirely at tangent from the rest of the band, he uses guitar almost as Allen Ravenstein used synth in Pere Ubu; a distracting, unsettling counterpoint. Epic Soundtracks drummed on a kit that included some severely mutilated cymbals, with a direct but detached, weirdly muter approach that would make him a natural for the improvising fringe.

Problem of problems: the thicker the blues, the sharper the edge of the voice you need. C&CS are swamp-booted because Simon Bonney opts for a Jim-Morrison-as-Leadbelly voice, heart full o' pain, mouth full o' coals. The music could be offset by some acting, but he has his heart set on being AUTHENTIC, and it doesn't work. He's too introspective, gazing up at the paint peeling off the ceiling or peering into his own armpit. He could be Andrew Eldritch for all that mattered.

"Show some life!" heckled some wit, and although that's missing the point, maybe he wasn't that far off. C&CS tend to the deathly: now, if they could crack a smile and attend to some of life's ironies, they could be really great.

- Jonathan Romney
(transcribed by Cat)