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"Texan Drugs And Rock'N'Roll"

Yeeee-haaaaarrrggghh! Tex-Mex-Hex-Sex symbols CURVE are on a bender in Ross Perot country, fulfilling all of the American's dreams about, erm, Dream Pop. Indie saddle ANDREW COLLINS joins them in Houston and Dallas for New Man adoration, four-beaver hats and a date with Bob Smith.

Holiday Snaps: Kevin Cummins

Lazy cowgirl Toni Halliday and Curve cohort Dean Garcia crash out in Texas (pic: Kevin Cummins)

In America, they call it Dream Pop. Ride, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Cranes, Curve - you can see how they came up with the term, and it's a lot more complimentary than shoegazing or goth. Curve - five people out of recent rock history and some classified ads aged between 22 and 33 - are currently putting the nightmare into Dream Pop.

Having already established themselves as chart staples in the UK, America now lies in their nail-varnished grasp, eagerly consuming 100,000 copies of their 'Doppelgänger' LP and sure to gag and vom with delight at the new 'Horror Head' 45, MTV-geared video and all.

This is Curve's debut US tour, three weeks long with a further leg fixed up for September. For at least four of them, it's the first. For all five, it's the most important. Dean Garcia, as we all know to our own indie repulsion, toured the world in 1985 with the Eurythmics. It left him so "f---ed in the head" he vowed never to go on the road again.

"It's really destructive," he grimaces. "You've got no centre, there's nothing there, it's all broken up, scattered. It's not for me. I felt like shrapnel."

Dave Stewart nicknamed that '85 tour 'The Marriage Wrecker', but as soon as it was over, Dean got married ("I had to!"). With this in mind, maybe you can see just how important Curve is to Dean Garcia.

Let us nickname this tour 'The Match Maker'. And let us go on it.

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Fender benders Curve and the wreck on the highway (pic: Kevin Cummins)

THURSDAY

"HAVE YOU got any nose candy in the bag? No? Not even a little bit of no-o-o-ose caandeee?"

The Texan customs official and full-time psychological sadist taps his nose suggestively and grins from ear to disgusting, raddled old ear. "What about a little brick of hasheeesh - for those sweet dreams?"

He checks between every frigging page of my copy of Psychotic Reactions And Carburettor Dung for LSD, apparently. Welcome to Houston. "You're not from around these parts are you?" That is their catch-phrase. ('DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS'). That is their bumper sticker. Clever wording, I know.

Proud to be hosting the 1992 Republican National Convention, home of a football team called the Oilers and fourth largest city in the USA, Houston is basically a lot of dual carriageways with some towering infernos dotted between them. It is shit. Air conditioning (or A/C) is its unwieldy middle name, one of its best umpteen road signs says 'DRIVE FRIENDLY' and Curve are only playing here as a stop-off between San Francisco and a Cure support slot in Dallas. They are in good spirits, though, enlivened by great gigs (and accompanying reviews) in LA and New York, happy enough to see some homeboys, and speeding headlong into an official evening off with the familiar Curve war-cry, "Margarita Time!!!"

Within seconds of our arrival, it seems, we are off to Pappasito's Cantina, a lively Tex-Mex bar that does the statutory free tortillas and salsa while you wait (30 minutes) for a table. The Texan-sized jugs of frozen margarita are wheeled in and disposed of as we cool off in what's proudly advertised as 'refrigerated air'. Let me talk you through the party.

Toni Halliday, Curve's unmissable mouthpiece, is without her ice maiden make-up. There are two Tonis - the painted one, and the raw one. The latter is more approachable, the former more marketable. Curve are now at the other end of their three-week jaunt; Toni is currently enjoying the luxury of having her beau on the rider. Alan Moulder (for it is he) is already well-known for his whizzkid co-production work on Curve's 'Doppelgänger' album and the Mary Chain's 'Honey's Dead'. He is the tallest man in rock, it's his birthday today, and, within half a yard of margarita, he's bet me £20 that I won't like the Manic Street Preachers in precisely two years' time. He is mad.

Dean Garcia is, without question, the sinister Mr Big behind Curve. As any good combined foreman, architect, visionary and axis would, he blends into the background and makes little fuss. A suave and sensible 33-year-old with wife'n'kids, Dean is the glue that holds Curve together and on a lender tonight, oh yes.

Enigmatic and small co-guitarist Debbie Smith, 24, has unfortunately left her heart-throb in San Francisco; interestingly, Toni is obsessed with Debbie's breasts.

Rhythm king Monti, 27, always adds "I hope you don't mind me asking," after asking you anything. He employs the Cockneyism "monkey" to refer to any indistinct sum of money, and drums for love. He completed the ten tracks on the Mary Chain album in two days flat.

This leaves blue-eyed guitarist Alex, 22, who exists only to (ahem) rave. Not in the least bit interested in the bogus minutiae of rock music, he thinks that the NME is rubbish for not reviewing discos. He does not read the NME, and nor would he, even if we reviewed discos on every page. The argument he tries to have with me about this matter over two hundredweight of nachos does not last long.

This, then, is the Curve Band. Although they are generally presented (in both promo and press) as a neat Sonny & Scare two-piece, it is as a quintet that you and many hundreds of Americans will see them in the live arena, fighting to be seen beneath the smoke and strobery.

Hic. Can we 'get' the check now, please?

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FRIDAY

(pic: Kevin Cummins)THE WEATHERMAN on the car radio has just described the Houston weather as "disgustingly hot and humid". Bad sign. Even the Met Office have given up trying to make this heavy, oppressive, f--- off bastard heat sound pleasant.

Driving outta town (what town?) to look for suitable redneck photo locations with the top down and tuned into a station called Easy Country (for about two desperate bars), we pull in for some merciful A/C at an isolated mall in Hempstead. Toni wants to buy a genuine cowboy hat, and is only momentarily thwarted in her quest by a shop assistant for whom the request "Have you got this one, but in a smaller size," elicits a look more vacant than Canary Wharf. Those who work in America's famous service industry are trained only in airs and graces and straight teeth - ask them for something as complex and philosophically ambiguous as a smaller size and they treat you like a communist.

Sensibly, Tone plumps for the same size Stetson ("Four Beavers" it says on the inside - you work it out) and we take the road once more. We have just hit Mental Ground Zero. Gosh, those crickets are loud.

In a Hempstead Tex-Mex stop-off, photos in the car, PR Phil tries to order what is billed as 'The Meatless Meal' without cheese, since he is a vegan. They bring him it without cheese, but with meat! Serves the pinko pantywaist right, huh Dwight? A quote from some CNN phone-in rings round my boiling head - "I will vote for Ross Perot because he is not a politician."

Disgustingly hot indeed.

At 8.30, we hitch with the band to a Houston rock club enticingly called The Vatican - for nil reason other than there's a lot of smoke pouring out of it. Curve's entrance onstage is, as ever, fanfared by a rude and enormous belch of dry ice. The assembled 500 actually applaud and holler and die with excitement. At some steam. Sometimes, the American way can be a heartening thing.

Curve, already beloved of the alternative set, lunge gregariously into 'Think And Act' - and the stage-diving begins. The 'Get Your Tits Out' alarm bells sound as gameboys clamber onstage with Toni in their sights. But look! They respectfully tap her shoulder and exit, skywards. It's actually as if these dudes are frightenedof their new Dream (Pop) Girl.

Toni reveals afterwards that some of the front row were actually stroking her face. What ought to have been a depressing stop-gap, with tickets only on sale a week previous, turned out to be a rabid Curvefest, with New Man respect and knowing the words thrown in for good measure.

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"Hello Dallas Texas!"  Curve get ready to, erm, rock (pic: Kevin Cummins)

SATURDAY

ALAN MOULDER has taken to wearing Toni's four-beaver cowboy hat everywhere. "It's easier than carrying it," he claims. A likely story. Whilst in a cab with Dean and Toni, the driver naturally assumes they are in a Country & Western band.

"No, Country & Rap," corrects Dean.

CRap, geddit?

Toni grips her bottle of Vicks VapoSyrup as if it is her last hand grenade and war has just been declared. Mark Gardener from Ride recommended the stuff to her once, as a singing lubricant, and she's not put it down since. War has been declared, by the way. It's Curve against 45,000 members of the Texan Youth.

Saturday is The Big One. A short flight from Houston, City of Roads, to Dallas, The President Wrecker, and the stomach butterflies are beginning to work out. Today is the day Curve break their strict 'No Support' policy and warm up for the mighty Cure at the Dallas Cowboys' football stadium. It strikes me as poetic, since a single pen-stroke turns a Cure shirt into a Curve one, and both bands have been saddled with the goth tag (by lazy journalists, ha ha).

Robert Smith is a major Curve fan; meanwhile, feelings for the The Cure vary amongst Curve's members. Dean seems ambivalent, while Debbie will spend the entire two and a half hours of their set at the side of the stage. Alex...well you can probably guess where he sits on the matter.

"Debbie's going to stick her pass on her crotch," threatens Toni, "'Cos that's the first place everyone looks."

Ribald banter in the minibus en route to the stadium covers up for genuine nervousness and apprehension. Curve turned down the entire 46-date Cure tour in order to avoid a spectacle like this, yet here they are, approaching yer actual superbowl, hearts in mouths and squiggly-wiggly Cure passes slapped to their chests with 'THE CURVE' written on them. (As a joke, one assumes). Dean, who never played anywhere as large and foreboding with "Dave 'n' Annie", sums up:

"F--- this!"

Indeed.

WELL-KNOWN upmarket comic Deadline put Curve on the cover of their May issue - a drawing by artist Glyn Dillon in traditional Deadline style. Previous cover stars have been Carter and the Senseless Things, upon whose shoulders the compliment rested a little easier. Deadline want to put the cover art out as a T-shirt. Dean and Toni will not give them permission. They don't dig the picture.

Cartoons they are not. And, as we retire to a quiet executive box at the stadium to conduct our official 'chat', Toni actually begins to protest. "You're gonna miss everything real!" she complains, trying to talk me out of even putting the tape machine on. Outside, the excellent PA send stuff like 'Villiers Terrace' and 'Kidney Bingoes' rebounding around the cavernous bowl.

Curve are keen to stand out from the crowd. They making pounding, nocturnal music for themselves, and if other people leave them alone then that's a bonus. "So f---ing what?" is Toni's catchphrase - if she wants to smile all the way through a gig, she will, whether it cracks her snow queen of death image or not. In LA, a front-row punter took offence at her beaming and called out "Hey, Toni! Be more intense" Her response?

"F--- YOU! IT'S MY F---ING STAGE, F--- OFF! F--- THAT!"

"I like to see her smile onstage," comments Dean, "'cos when she's not smiling, you think 'Oh, she's about to walk off.'"

These two have a pretty special relationship. They create 75 per cent of the Curve sound on their own in Dean's 16 track studio, and only then does a producer get to join in. They have known each other for eight years, feel spiritually related by the fact that they were both raised fatherless, and are very much brother and sister off-camera, as it were.

So would you make a crap couple?

"We would make a crap couple," Toni grins. "We worked that one out quite early on. Obviously, there was a basic attraction, but it's not necessarily a sexual thing. It's nothing untoward!"

Dean: "I'd consider it incestuous. It's not on."

Toni: "We cuddle, and it's not unromantic...I have romantic dreams about Dean, and what he can achieve...he's just getting better and better and I revel in it!"

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CURVE ARE somewhat scuppered at the stadium by broad daylight and a blinkered crowd, but the wide open spaces love that monstrous music. Toni's breath at the beginning of 'Horror Head' becomes a whirlwind, and Monti's drums parade about like the Norse gods entering the carved halls of Valhalla.

The experience leaves Curve spent and not a little frustrated. The Most Wistful Man In The World who lives inside me, is almost driven to say, "Never mind - it'll be different when you horror-headline your own gig here in 1993." But I'm not tempting fate.

Instead, we shall leave Curve to disperse into their five constituent satellites for some r'n'r. This weekend they will be playing kick-grace rock'n'roll on the NME for YOU, and it'll be such a relief from all the cowboys and indie-kids.

Sweeeet dreams, y'all.

TONI'S TEN FAVE THINGS ABOUT AMERICA

1 The Triton Hotel, San Francisco ("Best bar, best barman.")
2 Golden Gate Bridge Toll
3 CN Tower, Toronto ("Fantastic...the tallest building in the whole world. Fact.")
4 Melrose Avenue, LA
5 Mel & Rose's Café, Melrose Avenue, LA
6 Duke's Café, Sunset Strip, LA ("Everybody goes there...you can stuff your face for $5.")
7 Osaka Health Spa, NY
8 Spinal Tap at the Universal Amphitheatre, LA
9 Loveline, the Number One-rated show on K-ROC radio, LA ("It's on five nights a week, and people ring in with their luurve problems. When I was on it, this 16-year-old girl phoned in to tell us about this bloke who pays her to hit and kick him, then chuck bottles of spunk over him. He collects this spunk off little boys, apparently. She got cut off and told to contact the police!")
10 Meeting Medicine in LA ("They supported us at the Variety Arts Center and were just brilliant.")

(article nicked from 'New Musical Express', 27 June 1992)

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