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"Never Mind The Parabolics"

Are Curve the manic, desperate and unhinged prince and princess of post-Mary Chain doom pop, or just a couple of old chancers out to make a fast buck from The Kids? STUART MACONIE goes 15 rounds with the Goth Eurythmics and decides to overlook the skeletons in their closet.

Bending it all: DEREK RIDGERS

(pic: Derek Ridgers)

So what did you do for Valentines day, then? Come on, you can tell me. The corner table of that intimate little Italian place, perhaps? Or maybe a nicely chilled Soave on the bearskin rug while the logs spat and crackled.

Or possibly a ferocious bout of bodily fluid exchange while James burbled in the background? One thing's for sure. You didn't serenade that special person with 'Die Like A Dog' or 'Faît Accompli' or the 'Frozen' EP or any other of popular recording duo Curve's matt black, petrified, coruscating tales of dementia and darkness.

But I think some of you did. And that's what worries me.

Toni Halliday has gone all Morticia Addams on me, "I totally, sincerely believe that there's a dark side to everyone on this planet. Or at least an 'alternative' side that remains hidden a lot of the time. When we make music we try to get to that side of ourselves.

"It's odd, but I think that's what everyone who writes or creates does on some level. You try to get in touch with your untapped feelings. And you end up discovering things that...aren't very nice. You end up being repelled by the things you should love...and...hurting the things that hurt." She fixes me with the coal black eyes. "Do you know what I mean?"

(pic: Derek Ridgers) IF YOU were to re-read Curve's early press, you might be forgiven for thinking they were a cure for cancer, a guaranteed ozone layer plug, Gaudi's cathedral in Barcelona, the complete works of Shakespeare and England's World Cup-winning squad of '66 all rolled up into one. Rock journalists are never known for their sobriety on any level, but the gales of hyperbole that greeted their debut 'Blindfold' EP were a tad strong on the Beaufort Scale even for us.

Why? That's the question. Were Curve really that much superior to their peers in the mild winter of 1990/1991 that hard-headed hacks were in such a rush to check the spelling of 'adamanthine', 'nacreous', 'chimerical' and 'The Sisters Of Mercy'? Even Curve themselves don't know.

"We thought we were going to have a very quiet initiation period. We didn't expect to be seized upon so readily," muses Dean Garcia, the unassuming architect behind Curve's battlements of noise. We thought we'd put out a couple of records, maybe make our first album and a few people might say, 'oh, there's a thing going on here'. And then we'd generate some real interest by the second album. How wrong we were!"

Toni picks up the thread.

"We were both slightly wary of being flavour of the month because we had such a massive onslaught of praise straight away. But we just decided to try and ignore it and carry on making good records and see what happened. We know about the pen, how it can slash people to bits. The old 'setting them up to knock them down'. It does seem a mite unfair."

She sips from her mug of viper's blood...I mean PG Tips.

"A lot of the time we were embarrassed by the reviews we got. More than embarrassed. We didn't actually understand what people were saying. We wondered if they were actually talking about us. Sometimes we'd do shows and be absolutely f---ing awful and then we'd read stuff about 'the beautiful sound of falling apart'. Now what the f--- does that mean, exactly?"

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(pic: Derek Ridgers) CURVE, TO all intents and purposes, are Dean Garcia and Toni Halliday. As you all know by now, neither is a green teen wandering starstruck through the great halls of rock 'n' roll. Both of them have been around long enough to have high wince factor publicity shots lurking in the bowels of the NME's picture archives. This makes some people almost paranoically suspicious of them. We'll return to this anon, but for now, hey, let's throw the debate open to you.

Curve have been much more than a bamboozled boy critic's wet dream. More importantly, they've captured the hearts and minds of a significant sector of the indie public. Take the 'v' out of Curve and you might be onto understanding why. While some like nothing more than a robust impromptu scrum in a beery puddle while the Mega City Four bounce happily around, there is another type of punter. Thoughtful, complicated, heavily back-combed, read The Outsider up to the bit on the beach with the Arab, and guaranteed to find sustenance in the sparking circuitry and the whooshing of raven's wings that is the Curve sound live and on record.

Do I sound cynical? I don't mean to. If the alternative is the cheery, matey mediocrity that seems to inform whole sections of the independent rock fraternity, then I too can see the appeal in Curve, if only for the austerity, the darkness, the implied threat. Toni, naturally, is more diplomatic.

"I think the last few years have seen the advent of the common man's rock performer and I quite like that. We're not inaccessible. People come up to us and we love to talk to them. We read all our letters. We went to see Nirvana and got completely wrecked. People were coming to me at the bar and saying, 'Aren't you..?' and I was going, 'Yeah, do you wanna slammer?'"

But think. Part of Carter's undoubted appeal lies in the fact that their fans, however wrongly, assume that they can sidle up to Jim Bob and Fruitbat, slip an arm around them, stand them a light ale, and possibly pop back to their squat for a spot of Trivial Pursuits and scrambled eggs. That's not how Curve are perceived. Dean looks quite hurt.

"Isn't it? Do we come across as unapproachable?" Toni interjects: "I know what you mean. We project a certain mystery or austerity or something. I'm quite glad about that. Mystery is part of the great rock 'n' roll thing. There must be a certain distance, something not known, or there's no appeal. The people that I idolised, I was aware that there were things I could never know."

So, Curve not only understand the perennial morbid curiosity of the fan. They wholeheartedly approve of it. Or something. Toni evinces an air of world-weariness.

"There are days when you don't want to sit around explaining yourself. There are days when you just want to lie in bed and order pizzas. But I understand the curiosity of fans. You should find the characters behind the music intriguing. There isn't anyone now that I'm particularly fascinated or curious about, but when I was 14..." Dean puts it succinctly.

"If Lennon was still around I'd be ridiculously interested in what toilet paper he used. I'm sorry."

Warming to the theme, Toni accepts that there's something about Curve's (ahem) sonic world that attracts the misfit and obsessive.

"The Beautiful South sing about washing machines and the like, so they aren't going to get the same response as us. Some of the fan letters we get are really bizarre. People writing to us saying, 'If you don't give me the lyrics to 'Die Like A Dog' it will f--- up my life completely'. But I was like that once. What does freak me out is when people come up to me and say, 'I want to be exactly like you'. That worries me. I generally get Dean to stand in front of me and say, 'Look she's just a f---ing slag'..."

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(pic: Derek Ridgers) CURVE THE unit are still in the first flush of youth. Three EPs, a new single, 'Faît Accompli' (actually two new singles, different formats, madcap marketing ahoy!), and an album in the late spring. But let's just chop 'em down and count those rings, shall we?

What many purists and madmen are more concerned with is the fact that both Toni and Dean have pedigrees (of sorts) in the pop show ring. Dean is an established working musician and erstwhile Eurythmic. Toni was once a peroxide pop chanteuse recording for Dave Stewart's Anxious label. Stewart is crucial here. As matchmaker and guiding spirit to the infant Curve, his shadow looms large over their development.

Now this parched and arid ground has been stomped over by the hobnails of the cynics a hundred times, but it remains relevant. Why? Because in the eyes of many it eternally condemns Curve as rampant opportunists, slick careerists, designer indie scruffs who realised, to their advantage, that there was more lucre and profile in the burgeoning culture of the post-Valentines underground than in the mainstream. Leaping adroitly from the sinking hulk of '80s glossy pop, they've found a nice posting on the Good Ship Lollipop, the plucky, ramshackle raft with all its merry crew.

Point One. Who cares? Whether you like Curve or not, does it matter where they've been? If you don't like Curve, at least don't like them for a decent reason. Like the records are crap or something.

Point Two. If you are looking for purity, honesty, unsullied motives, organic development and clear-eyed dedication to age-old ideals in your pop music, you have picked the wrong hobby. Try the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Curve. You can't trust them as far as you can throw them.

"Why don't people trust us?" laughs Toni. "Oh, God. Because we don't fit in. You're not supposed to have a past. We're not 20 and straight out of Bristol or whatever. We've been around, we've done a lot. We freak people out because we know what we know. F--- everything else.

"When we knew we were going to have to do interviews, we sat down and talked it through and said we weren't going to lie. Dean's been in the Eurythmics. I've made a solo record. And those people who went wild about us straight off, some of 'em were shocked and realised they'd ended up in the soup. And they saw it was tomato and not minestrone as they'd thought."

Soup identification notwithstanding, Curve are not so glacial and cold-hearted that they don't visibly bridle when you mention the word... contrived.

Dean: "That cuts. That really hurts. You try to live with it but... Actually, I looked it up. It means 'to understand'. It's a really positive thing."

Leaving aside the matter of exactly where Dean buys his dictionaries, the really dumb implication of the 'contrived' tag is that it assumes most rock bands are honest and artless, that there is a spirit of indiedom to which we should all aspire. Toni is quietly caustic.

(pic: Derek Ridgers) "When we first got this 'contrived' accusation, we thought, 'You bastards'. But in the end you have to let people have their opinions, however stupid. The thing is, it implies that all other bands are genuine, which is ludicrous. No-one's like that. People are drawn to indie labels for all sorts of reasons, not ethics. They're drawn by figureheads like Alan McGee. Or because they wouldn't get deals with major labels because they're too..."


"Experimental. Majors are into fast bucks. They won't give a bunch of kids time to develop. Music was driven underground because of the pressures of the industry were too much for these 18 and 20-year olds".

Dean: "These kids would do the best work they'd ever done and the suits would say, 'Where's the single?' The majors want a hit first time or you're off."

Fortunately, Curve did have a hit first time off... and second. And again, why? You can see why the Neds have hits. For exactly the same reasons that Slade did. But who is buying these cadaverous things, these ruthless, mechanistic hymns to bonkersness? In amongst all the waffle, the essential truth has been missed. That Curve sound quite a lot like Kate Bush fronting the new-look U2 doing a set of Mary Chain covers. If you like a spot of black-hearted noise and some feline mystery, then Curve will set your leather trousers alight.

A lot of folk in't biz think Curve are Goths. They aren't. But what they are is the attractive elements of Goth ideology (the lure of the damned, the slight but ultimately unthreatening hint of evil and menace) presented in the bleached-out soundscapes of modern rock. One of the strengths of the music is that it sounds f---ed up. Dean recoils.

"What do you mean?"

It sounds manic and desperate and unhinged and, well f---ed up. So what does that say about you?

Dean: "Well, it says that we're manic and desperate and unhinged and f---ed up. And that we're not precious. Whatever you might think. We don't spend hours cleaning the tapes up. It's all there. All the noise and shit."

Toni: "It's not easy listening, if that's what you're getting at. But that's been a good trend in music recently. The collapse of that major-label-Cloud-Nine-healthy-economy-Filofax-music. What does that say to someone in Wigan or Sunderland?

"If we're the antithesis of anybody, it's Simply Red. We have more in common with DAF or Depeche Mode. Sonically, we're attracted to things that hurt. Stuff that goes 'EEEEE!' and makes your ears bleed. I've always been a frequent hardcore gig-goer. Ask anyone who knows me. I'm a North-Eastern girl. I like guitars..."

She glances up in a manner that a lesser man might call coquettish.

"...And hard things in general."

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(pic: Derek Ridgers) WHICH BRINGS us to the last piece of the Curve jigsaw. Sex. Toni was voted to number one in the Sex Object category of the NME poll. Go to any Curve gig and you will find, amidst the appreciative musicologists, a gaggle of boys with their gonads short-circuiting and their chins on their ribcage hoping for a steely glare from the Sphinx princess. Wanting to shag the singer is an honourable tradition in rock fandom. The question is, does it devalue Curve's success?

Toni: "No, it's sexy music. All music should be. Music without sex is like death." For Dean "the bass is pure sex. An incredibly physical thing. My wife's a drummer. People even ask us whether being a rhythm section improves our sex life."

I was too polite to ask.

So Curve are pop stars. Of a sort. Though Toni is quick to point out that "Radio 1 still don't accept us. Peelie and Goodier play us. They can't program us in between Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. In that we're much more outsiders than Jesus Jones or The Wonder Stuff or bands like that. And we're certainly not rich. When My Bloody Valentine say they're on 70 quid a week, they're not joking. We don't sell buckets. We sell quite a lot but, because of my old album, we've got quite a lot on money to recoup. Curve make records cheaply because we want to make real money."

Real money. While denying that Curve are contrived, aloof, unapproachable or Machiavellian, Toni Halliday acknowledges that "there is something quite good and funny about being thought of as some Madonna Svengali of indie pop". I can see that. What toilet paper do you use by the way?

"That horrible unbleached stuff that looks like it comes from Russia. The stuff that's imprinted on every child's memory."

Izal. So now you know.

(article nicked from 'New Musical Express', 22 February 1992)

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