Sounds - July 20, 1985

Crime & The City Solution - Woolwich Thames Polytechnic

Their songs like 'At The Crossroads' and 'The Dangling Man' suggest a fascination with the morbid chill of Deep South blues whose myths are stored and shaped on a lonely stretch of songs somewhere between Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads Blues' and Josh White singing about bodies hanging from trees as in 'Strange Fruit'.

Despite these allusions to the yonder rural South, Crime & the City Solution play a music removed from the "blues" tag with which they'll inevitably be labelled.

With his hunched-over guitar stance lit up as ever by the customary cigarette drooping from his mouth, Rowland Howard still churns out that remarkably distinctive sound dictating the course of his new group's music.

His playing often seems to be the noise of two or three others locked away in some distant room where they lay track upon track of reverberating sound. At times these layers are stripped away and the guitar line seems so obviously solitary. But it is a sound that never recalls the "sobbin' an' weepin'" moan of blues.

Mick Harvey, hidden away at the side of the stage behind his keyboards for much of the set, and bassist Harry Howard provide a fittingly sparse backdrop - as they do on 'The Dangling Man' EP where Harvey also adds cello and his wonderfully stiff-armed drumming. On this record Simon Bonney's voice eventually emerges as something more than the mere crossing point between Jim Morrison and the Triffids' McComb.

However, live, Bonney's voice is snared by a murky mix between self-conscious affectation and the ineffectual drone. Often it seems as if Rowland Howard's own cruel snarl of a voice, as heard on some of his earlier records like 'Some Velvet Morning' would be suited better to this music.

At this dank and dark venue, with only the exit sign providing enough light to identify the 100 post-apocalyptic bingo players and occasional fanzine vendor in the crowd, this was hardly the most significant concert that Crime & the City Solution are likely to play. But it was still evident that there is a need for a colder and stronger voice to match the music's rejection of a grieving blues wail.

- Donald McRae
(transcribed by Cat)