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"Wowing The Big Apple To The Core"

(pic: Tom Sheehan)

They've captured our hearts, fired our imaginations and stormed our charts. Now they're taking on America. CURVE are raving in New York and THE STUD BROTHERS are flinging the ticker tape.

Pics: TOM SHEEHAN


MEAN STREETS

NEW YORK RAIN, LIKE NEW YORK sunshine, like New York anything, is an extreme experience. The skies open and out pour great, grey gobs of warm piss - it's a real ticker-tape welcome for Europhiliacs. We're sheltering under a hotel canopy on West 46th and Broadway, an area chiefly known outside the city for its theatres, but in New York itself it is largely celebrated for the copious amounts of guttersnipes and scuzzbuckets that patrol its sex shops and peepshows. From nowhere appears the wettest, scuzziest person in the world. He's wearing canvas sneakers that mileage has turned to flip-flops, three pairs of soaking trousers, each open at the fly, a filthy grey polyester jumper and, on his head, a brand new scarlet sou'wester.

"Got a cigarette?" he demands.

He's given a cigarette and moves a few steps back into the rain.

Behind him stands a man, more a boy really, who from the neck up looks exactly like Axl Rose, complete with Indian headscarf. But from the neck down to his twisted left leg it's "Day of the Dead" all the way. Over one sore shoulder he carries a folding desk-chair, in his hand a bulging carrier bag filled to pathetic breaking point with all his worldly possessions.

"Thigawette? Thigawette?"

He, too, is given a cigarette. He moves out onto the sidewalk, unfolds his chair and sits down to enjoy a smoke.

He manages around six blissful puffs before he's confronted by the uniformed hotel doorman.

"YOU CAN'T SIT THERE, YOU F***IN' BUM!" says the doorman, with characteristic New York candour.

Axl moans slightly.

"I SAID, 'GET THE F*** OUTTA HERE', YOU F***!"

Axl looks bewildered.

At this point, Scarlet Sou'wester reappears.

"YOU HEARD THE MAN! GET OUTTA HERE, YOU F***IN' BUM!" says Sou'wester, who clearly considers himself a cut above the average bum.

Axl holds up his sodden cigarette as if to say, "Surely, but may I first finish this?"

The answer is an emphatic "NO".

Sou'wester kicks Axl off his chair, then kicks the chair into Broadway's oncoming rush-hour traffic.

The doorman stoops to pick Axl's plastic bag off the sidewalk, glances up and down the street and then sees what he's looking for - Manhattan's deepest puddle. He marches over to it and empties all that Axl owns into the filthy water, making sure with the tip of his foot that everything is thoroughly submerged. He turns to an unbelieving Axl and says with some finality, "NOW F*** OFF!"

Dean Garcia shakes his head.

"I can't believe this city, I can't believe how ruthless it is. You know, the first time I came here I think I had a better idea of what it's like than I do now. Then I wouldn't even leave my hotel room."

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CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOURS

(pic: Tom Sheehan) FOUR blocks down from our extravagantly designed hotel (the porters wear Armani suits, and the stainless steel urinals in the restrooms off the lobby are intricately etched with blossoming vines) is 42nd Street, a good deal of which looks as if it's just undergone a mortar attack. We've wandered down there under blistering sunshine, via Times Square, looking for bargains. In New York, you can buy anything, and, on 42nd Street, you can buy it cheaper.

On the corner stands a man in a scuffed suit and battered trilby, holding open a medium-sized brown briefcase. Inside is a selection of some of the world's finest designer watches. He looks so much like a New York hustler that he'd be too authentic to feature in a Martin Scorsese film.

"How much is the Rolex?" one of us asks, in a way that he hopes sounds suitably sharp and streetwise.

"For the Rolex, 30 bucks."

Dean tuts, disgustedly.

"He'll give you five," he says.

"FIVE BUCKS FOR A F***IN' ROLEX?"

"Five," repeats Dean.

"THIS IS A ROLEX DIVER'S WATCH!" says the man, looking visibly wounded.

"I wouldn't risk wearing that in the bath," replies Dean.

"IT'S A ROLEX!" says the man, pointing wearily at the logo on the watch's face and, below that, an inscription reading "Swiss parts. 30m Water Resist".

Resist?

"Thirty bucks for a real Rolex?"

"Right," says the man, cheerfully. "Good price, huh?"

"He'll give you $10," says Dean.

"For $10, I give you a Gucci," the man declares, triumphantly flourishing a black Gucci with a diamond-studded face.

We buy the Rolex for $20. It's around half an hour before anyone notices the Made in Hong Kong sticker on the back. Around two hours before internal condensation entirely obscures the hands. And almost a full day before Dean tells the mug who bought it that he can now be a mug at 20 fathoms.

"Don't worry," says Toni Halliday, sympathetically. "The strap alone's probably worth... about two or three dollars."

TONI and Dean are no strangers to New York, and they like the city for all the obvious reasons - for its energy, because it never sleeps, for all the reasons anyone loves the town, because it refuses to outgrow its cliches.

When Toni first came here it was on holiday with a friend called Sophie. Deciding to experiment with one of the city's ultimate cliches, they double-dared each other to ride the subway at night. They took the 6-train, the all-stopping nightmare that runs from the Bronx, through Harlem and mid-town Manhattan, and down to Battery Park. Toni says it was just like "Death Wish", and she will never, day or night, ride the subway again.

Dean came here with the Eurythmics. Alex, Curve's long-haired, techno-obsessed guitarist, has visited crusty friends of his in Hoboken. Debbie, Curve's furious feedback machine, has been here, but has spent more time in San Francisco with her girlfriend. She describes both cities as so enjoyable that they'd kill her within a year. Oddly, only Monti (Curve's drummer), who has played with Ian Dury's Blockheads and The Jesus and Mary Chain, has never been to America. On his first day in New York, not understanding the subway tokens which look confusingly like five-cent pieces, he found himself handcuffed and up against a wall for fare-dodging. Monti escaped by being as English as possible, having quickly ascertained that most New Yorkers regard non-New Yorkers as naïve to the point of village idiocy, and therefore not responsible for their own actions.

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Curve are (l - r):  Dean Garcia, Alex Mitchell, Monti, Debbie Smith and Toni Halliday (pic: Tom Sheehan) BUT, as a band, this is Curve's first time in New York and their first time in America, and the reception has been extraordinary. The week they arrived, "Doppelgänger", their debut album, went to Number One in the college charts. Their arrival in each city has been heralded with features explaining who the band are and why they should be seen, and glowing live reviews have bid them fond farewells. In New York, they were interviewed by MTV - and not for a spot on the indie graveyard shift,"120 Minutes", but for the infinitely more prestigious (and watched) "The Week in Rock". Their New York show at the Manhattan Centre Ballroom was attended by, among others, Sonic Youth, an ecstatic Vernon Reid, the Happy Mondays, and Yoko Ono. In Los Angeles, Perry Farrell saw and met them. In Dallas last week, supporting The Cure, they played to 45,000 people.

In America, Curve are big, big news - and the group can't quite believe it.

"It's weird," says Toni. "We only released 'Frozen' here before the album, and everywhere we've been, even places like Detroit which is a real ghost town, we've sold the place out. Everyone knows all the words."

But, of course, there's been the odd minor hitch. After the gig in Toronto, Debbie who, judging by rumour and what we saw of her, is an incorrigible party animal, decided to check out a Canadian rave and, in her ensuing dance trance, contrived to lose her passport. Mercifully, it was returned to her the next day by a Canadian Curve fan, otherwise the tour would've ended there and then. Debbie celebrated by going on a three-day liquid diet that ended with her redecorating the interior of a DC-10 with vomit.

In Chicago, Monti left everything except his passport in a cab and, when Toni showed insufficient sympathy, threw an "epic wobbler".

In Boston a fortnight ago, Debbie, who'd got a little too used to being treated like a guitar heroine, suddenly got the impression that the crowd's approval was not entirely unanimous, and "stopped trying".

"We had to explain to her that it's not always gonna be easy," says Toni. "People won't always be ecstatic."

In fact, in Boston the crowd was fairly divided between the disturbed (six-and-a-half foot mohawks standing open-mouthed with their fingers in their ears) and the devoted (that's you, that is).

Debbie proved she'd learned her lesson four days later. In Los Angeles, in an all-seater venue, Toni announced that they wouldn't play "a f***ing note" until everyone was on their feet. Four numbers in, the only people still sitting were one disgruntled couple in the first row. In an effort to gee them up, Debbie slung off her guitar and stagedived onto them. Which we THINK means she learned her lesson.

IN NEW YORK...

IN New York, Curve were the best we've ever seen them.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY

THERE'S a man standing on Toni Halliday. One foot is placed firmly in the small of her back, the other's grinding into her neck. The man gets off and starts beating his fists into her ribs. He's joined by a woman who, with diabolical expertise, begins to tickle the soles of her feet.

We don't actually see any of this, we just hear about it later. At the time, we're being kicked in the back by two wannabe-ninjas swinging on ropes. We're in a Shiatsu Health studio having done to us, at not inconsiderable expense, what they used to do for free in General Pinochet's Chile. In truth, you do feel great afterwards, but at the time you feel like you'll never walk again.

Dean, Monti and ourselves are trying to undergo the whole torturous experience without a single whimper or wriggle. Monti is easily the best at this. As one iron-calfed woman attempts to drive his head through a hole she must surely know is far too small, Monti offers us a pithy critique of New York which is punctuated by brief and almost imperceptible grunts. Dean lets out the occasional agonised sigh. We weep silently into towels.

Back in the hotel, recovering in Dean's room, we're discussing the merits of Shiatsu. On the TV, the video to "Horror Head", Curve's new single, is playing.

Onscreen, Toni looks compellingly and purposefully glamorous, emerging and re-emerging from a still pool of silver water. In the States, as in Britain, much has been made of Toni Halliday's looks.

"You think Shiatsu's bad," says Toni. "When we made that video, we'd been up all night remixing 'I Feel Love' (a cover of the Donna Summer classic which is to be released in September on an NME-sponsored compilation called Ruby Trax). The water was freezing, and they kept me in there for hours. All I could do to keep warm was to drink these huge glasses of brandy. I couldn't keep a straight face. By the time we left, I was completely pissed out of my head."

No pain, no gain.

One of the reasons most American papers can confidently predict Curve will be huge in the US is because the group do what's necessary. They don't treat their American audience with a superior European contempt. Instead, they appear genuinely happy to be there, and work genuinely hard to make sure every gig is an event. Nowadays, crowds really do need to be reminded that they're not just watching TV. That's why so many bands take time out to remind people that they're at a show, and normally in the crassest of ways by endlessly exhorting them to rock'n'roll.

Curve do so with considerably more style. Toni's learned when to talk and when not to, the band's learned when to leave gaps between songs and just how long those gaps should be. The lights (a hypno-laser effect) are bound to the rigours of the beat, and, when Curve end with an apocalyptic wall of feedback, it feels like a climax rather than some silly, pseudo-rebelliuous gesture.

Basically, Curve are now an infinitely more professional. practised and sussed group than they were a year ago. It makes perfect sense that "Horror Head", their most left-field single to date (though it's now been given a warmer remix) should be accompanied by their most MTV-friendly video yet.

Curve will succeed not only because they're good enough, but because they so passionately want to.

Sixteen months ago, five weeks before they released "Blindfold", we interviewed Curve in a pub called the Stamford Arms in Waterloo. At the time, we told Toni and Dean that within a year or two we'd be interviewing them by a pool in Los Angeles, or in a cafe in Greenwich Village. Dean said he'd rather be in the Stamford.

Now, sitting in the sun, sipping icy German lagers outside a cafe in Greenwich Village, we remind him of that.

"Yeah," says Dean. "I remember that."

He pauses to look up and down the street.

"I do remember saying that... what a load of bollocks."

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WHAT THE AMERICAN PAPERS SAY

(If you thought we were embarrassing, get a load of this)

'Surrounding well-made, well-played songs, their visual and sonic barrage turns disorientation into pure euphoria'
THE NEW YORK TIMES

'"Doppelgänger" is like a fuzzy nightmare from which you wake up dancing'
ROLLING STONE

'"Doppelgänger's" uncompromising dance sound at times threatens to lift your head into the clouds while leaving your twitching feet on the floor.'
TEXAS SHORT HORN

'Be prepared to get swept up in strotospheric sensurround soundscapes with lush guitars, hypnotic melodies so deep you could drown in them, with Halliday's launch-you-on-a-thousand-trips voice soaring above it all. It'll leave you seduced and abandoned not knowing what hit you but begging for more'
SPIN MAGAZINE

'Mad as hell'
THE BOSTON PHOENIX

'Curve are on their way to becoming the Nirvana of England... Curve could storm the US, showing that America does not have as much as an edge on the guitar grunge scene as it may think'
THE NEW HAMPSHIRE

And finally, and perhaps most poetically...

'The icing on the cake is Halliday's voice, it is as beautiful as the singer's physical self. She is effortlessly able to seduce you into her world and make you crave more'
CENTRAL MICHIGAN LIFE

(article nicked from 'Melody Maker', 20 June 1992)

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