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"Clone Again Or"

MAYBE we're just too demanding.

When Curve first seized control of our sensory organs (can it really be less than 12 months ago?!) they seemed too good to be true. They arrived fully-formed, flashy, perfect. Face of a malnourished goddess, hair like a wind-battered crow, rhythm of a rattlesnake, voice of Nemesis coming home. They shuddered and shimmered and bitch-talked like "Ju-Ju" -era Siouxsie reinvented for the machine age. The thoroughly modern pop group. They left us expecting magic.

So what did they do? They released one brilliant EP. And then? Um, they released another one. And another.

Which is where the problem begins. I love Curve for all the reasons some people are suspicious of them (don't know about you, but I've never had a problem with perfection). But towards the end of last year, the jealous whispers were making more sense. Maybe they were turning into an EP machine. Maybe they did need at least one new idea. Every track (well, eight out of ten) on this album does start with the same drum sound, like one of those plastic wobble-boards used to simulate thunder. Or the sound of distant gunfire. Then comes the pulverising post-Mondays dance beat, the bass that thinks it's a Sikorsky taking off, the razorwire Banshees guitar, and lastly Toni, delivering carefully-elocuted malice and unselfconscious ooh-la-las to fade.

The first time you hear "Doppelgänger", it sounds like the third-best track on a Curve EP, repeated 10 times. The second time, the uniformity begins to break down. By the third listen, you realise that maybe the repetition isn't such a bad thing after all, and succumb to the mechanistic mantras, become hypnotised, entranced.

"Doppelgänger" is an ugly word but a beautiful concept: the ghost of a living person, your astral double, the embodiment of all your karmic crimes which, one day, you must face. Which isn't the first time Curve have had me thinking about the occult, so please bear with me. But it's the album's cover that really does it. Hundreds of dismembered dolls. Most of them babies. Suddenly it all makes sense. Voodoo. I'm not making this up - the third track's called "Wish You Dead". Curve have always traded on implicit ill-will: non-specific menace ("I've come to crush your bones.. I've come to mess with your head") and blank promises ("I'd die on the cross before I'd cross you"). Veiled threats and hidden weapons. The victim is forever secret.

Then again, maybe the title "Doppelgänger", in its more usual sense of "carbon-copy", is (like Teenage Fanclub's "Bandwagonesque") a pre-emptive screw-you to anyone who accuses Curve of repetition. But there are times when the formula threatens to eclipse the mystery. "Split Into Fractions", for instance, is a dead ringer for "Coast is Clear", right down to that kazoo sound at the start.

Once or twice, the rhythm relents. "Horror Head" sounds at first like a bewitching exercise in MBV eroticism, all dreamy childlike hey-heys and liquid, swooning guitar, until you're suddenly hit by the cavernous sense of loss at the heart of the song and realise it's an elegy for a lost lover. The understated, spectral "Sandpit" is a truly moving prayer for salvation, a lament for a bewildered generation set to vestigal traces of Cocteaus / Jesus And Mary Chain feedback.

It seems kind of stupid to criticise a band who are brilliant at what they do for doing it. Still, something's not right. Rather than a brave step forward, "Doppelgänger" is a consolidation after which Curve can fly off, loosen up, let themselves go, allow themselves to weird out. There's enough evidence to suggest they'll still do it.

Maybe we're just too demanding. As a summation of an entirely impressive first phase, the thoroughly modern pop group have made a thoroughly modern album. Maybe the problem's ours...But we expected magic.

review by Simon Price (nicked from 'Melody Maker', dated 29 February 1992)

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