Simon Bonney - Past, Present, Future - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Simon Bonney - Past, Present, Future

by Kevin Orton Rating:9 Release Date:2019-05-03
Simon Bonney - Past, Present, Future
Simon Bonney - Past, Present, Future

Crime & The City Solution were one of the most underrated bands of the Post Punk era. Owing to the fact they shared key members with the Birthday Party and Bad Seeds, they were oft overshadowed by Nick Cave. Yet, they were no mere side project and what’s more, the likes of Rowland S. Howard and Mick Harvey were no mere sidemen. As for the frontman, Simon Bonney, he was no Nick Cave impersonator. In fact, his vocal style was undeniably an influence on Cave. Crime & The City provided an eerie, dark dramatic atmosphere and Bonney’s woozy baritone cut through it all like a rusty blade wielded by a blind mystic.  Once Rowland Howard left the fold, the band’s sound shifted, relying more on Bronwyn Adam’s signature violin. And one is inclined to wonder whether Cave took his cue from Crime in bringing violinist, Warren Ellis into his own band. Who can say for sure?  But Cave and Crime were both on the same scene and label. What’s more, both were featured prominently in Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire.

In terms of output, no one could accuse Bonney of being prolific.  Crime & The City’s discography features 4 studio albums and a long hiatus before they unexpectedly reappeared with 2013’s, American Twilight. A blistering, unexpected return featuring 16 Horsepower’s David Eugene Edwards. But there’s no denying their debut, Room Of Lights is a one of a kind masterpiece.  Shine and The Bride Ship are brilliant follow-ups. After 1990’s Paradise Discotheque Bonney released two solo albums. 1992’s Forever possessed a haunted Twin Peaks sound while its follow up,1996’s Everyman was steeped in rootsy Americana. Bonney cut another unreleased record, however, it remains unreleased. After that, Bonney essentially retired from music.

Now Bonney has once again resurfaced and can be found touring with longtime Crime & The City fan, Mark Lanegan.  In addition, he’s quietly released a compilation of his solo work aptly named, Past, Present, Future. The album includes selections from Forever, Everyman as well as some of that aforementioned, unreleased material.

Things kick off with the haunting, dreamlike ‘Ravenswood’. A track that sets the tone for much of Bonney’s solo work. Soaring violins and woozy slide glide guitar, Bonney croons, “Rain on, rain on, rain on me.” Beautiful stuff. A mellower echo of the deranged, nightmarish sound that can be found on Room of Lights.

‘Don’t Walk Away From Love’ is inspired Pop balladry and it’s moody follow-up, ‘There Can Be Only One’ continues in this vein. As pretty as these tracks are, there's a deep sense of longing that lends it all an air of melancholy. ‘Where Trouble Is Easier To Find’ doesn’t deviate from this path and it's clear this is the kind of record you close your eyes to, and let the current take you.

The brooding, ‘A Sweeter Kind of Pain’ nods more toward Bonney’s Crime days.  By contrast, the ten-minute, ‘Everyman’ is an epic slice of Americana murder balladry. On the original album, these tracks were divided up and interspersed throughout the record. So, it’s interesting to hear them all together forming a single as opposed to elliptical narrative. Without a doubt, ‘Everyman’ is the album’s centerpiece.

A gorgeous cover of Scott Walker’s ‘Duchess’ follows, with Bonney paying homage to an undeniable influence. In fact, if you’re a Walker fan it may seem a touch redundant. For my money, a cover of this tune is welcome anywhere, anytime. Its’ long been a favorite of mine. And perhaps Bonney doesn’t bring anything new to it, but one can’t help but be lost in its thrall regardless. 

‘Great Survivor’ is a cinematic, Springsteen style ballad one might hear as the credits roll. Cowboys riding off into the sunset. ‘Anabelle Lee’ alludes to Edgar Allen Poe’s immortal poem with Bronwyn Adams’ soaring violin reminding you just how instrumental she is (pun intended) to the Bonney/Crime sound.

The stirring, ‘Eyes of Blue’ is another album highlight. The sound of storm clouds rolling in for the big cry. Things draw to a close with,’ Can’t Believe Anymore’.  Adams’ fiddle sawing against a bed of acoustic guitars as Bonney confesses, “I dreamed the greatest dream of all”. Then things suddenly take off into noisy Velvet Underground territory. Aptly entitled, Past, Present, Future is the perfect introduction to Bonney’s solo work. It will no doubt, have you seeking out the original releases as well as leave you in anticipation of future ones.

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