Despite roots dating back as far as 1978, Crime & the City Solution did not truly emerge until 1984, coming to life in the wake of the dissolution of the seminal Birthday Party. The group was led by evocative singer/songwriter Simon Bonney, a Melbourne, Australia native who led a series of bands under the verbose Crime name throughout the late '70s and early '80s; a longtime friend of the Birthday Party, he contacted former members Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard after the group's breakup, and following the addition of Howard's brother, bassist Harry Howard, the most successful and famed lineup of Crime & the City Solution was born.
In 1985, the quartet debuted with The Dangling Man, a self-produced EP quickly establishing the band's moody, atmospheric, blues-based aesthetic. Former Swell Maps drummer Epic Soundtracks joined Crime after the EP's release, freeing Harvey to alternate among a variety of instruments for the haunting follow-up, Just South of Heaven. Their full-length bow, Room of Lights, appeared in 1986 and featured the remarkable "Six Bells Chime," which so impressed the acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders that he invited the band to perform the song live in his 1988 masterpiece Wings of Desire.
By the time the film appeared, however, the incarnation of Crime & the City Solution presented onscreen was no more; after Room of Lights, the Howard brothers and Soundtracks exited to form These Immortal Souls, leaving Bonney, Harvey, and violinist Bronwyn Adams (also Bonney's wife and songwriting partner) to relocate to Berlin, where they recruited a number of local musicians, including Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist Alexander Hacke, to cut 1988's ornate, intoxicating Shine. Even more baroque was the follow-up, 1989's The Bride Ship.
In 1990, Crime returned to the studio one final time to record Paradise Discotheque, a record built around Bonney's ambitious four-part suite "The Last Dictator," a song cycle inspired by the downfall of Romanian warlord Nicolae Ceaucescu. After contributing "The Adversary" to the soundtrack of Wenders' Until the End of the World, Crime & the City Solution disbanded; while Harvey continued to record and perform with former Birthday Party mate Nick Cave in the Bad Seeds, Bonney began work on his 1992 solo debut Forever and followed it with Everyman in 1995.