Simon Bonney

Past, Present, Future

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After Crime and the City Solution split for what seemed the final time in 1991, Simon Bonney and Bronwyn Adams, CCS' masterful violinist and his spouse, relocated to America's West Coast from a long sojourn in Berlin. The nomadic Australians took up residence in Silverlake, in Los Angeles, for a decade. Bonney re-examined everything he'd done musically. He met musician JD Foster, who led him through a listening tour of historic country and Americana, inspiring Bonney's songwriting. His interpretation of those sounds was showcased on Forever in 1992, and his second offering, the more musically and lyrically expansive Everyman, in 1994. On tour, Bonney met Outrageous Cherry's Matthew Smith, who introduced him to Detroit's verdant musical community. He cut a third album there, but it was shelved. Bonney disappeared from music for two decades to support his family. With kids grown, he returned to it, re-forming CCS with Detroit as its musical base.

Past, Present, Future compiles three tracks each from Forever and Everyman, and six from the unissued Eyes of Blue. The sequencing is a revelation. The aural portrait that emerges juxtaposes the evolution and transformation of a single life with one of America in flux, crisis, and conflict. The previously unissued "A Sweeter Kind of Pain" is a brooding, blues-inspired number about lovers who remain together even though they are physically separated. The songs from Forever, including the striking, hushed Americana of "Ravenswood" and the dark, cinematic, reverb-drenched country of the title track, with its orchestral use of the pedal steel, are more contemporary now than when they were recorded, losing none of their heft to time. Everyman could have been written about contemporary America. Its title cut is presented unedited for the first time, a sprawling socio-political observation of humanity struggling with fragmentation, conflict, and dissolution; it's a sparser, Western-themed kindred spirit to Crime's "Last Dictator" suite from Paradise Discoteque. The melancholy, Bakersfield-meets-Byrds twang and jangle of "Where Trouble Is Easier to Find" soars with emotion and haunted regret. Bonney's unique, previously unissued cover of Scott Walker's "Duchess" is a highlight: reverb-laden guitars pair beautifully with Smith's poignant pianism to frame Bonney's rich baritone which is consumed by confused desire. The panoramic "Annabelle-Lee" and "Eyes of Blue" are linked lyrically and thematically as their protagonist appears in both; the production aesthetic is equally inspired by cinema and roots Americana. Closer "Can't Believe Anymore" evolves from folksy and intimate to sprawling and experimental. Adams' spiraling violin meets and duels with squalling guitar and noise, linking them (inadvertently) to Crime's more harrowing moments -- think "The Bride Ship." Past, Present, Future is gorgeously curated and free of excess or artifice. It's a welcome microcosmic window into Bonney's history that foreshadows what may come next.

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