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"Who Dares Twins!"

(illustration: Graham Humphries) THE ARTWORK is weird, that's for sure; on the front of the sleeve is the image of a pile of mildly mutilated dolls; on the back, the plastic figures are depicted unharmed; on the Inner bag, meanwhile, the dolls are comprehensively massacred, bloody red and broken. So Curve tease and tickle, twist and turn. If only the innards of 'Doppelgänger' were so unpredictable, Curve would be on to an Olympian winner. If only.

Alas, to get the bad bit out of the way first, Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia have made the most excruciatingly Curve-ish debut album imaginable; the sort of record which will satisfy the fanatics while leaving the listeners on the margins mumbling into their beer about how they never really believed the duo could cut the mustard over the long stretch.

This is becoming a recurring problem; band makes three religiously-received EPs, attempts to translate 45 fever into LP passion, fails and ends up falling arse-over-tit down the critical hill. Fortunately for Curve, they possess the kind of sound which is willing to stand up and be counted and take on the album-oriented elements at their own gruesome game.

For the most part, 'Doppelgänger' seethes with a vaguely-detailed venom, bristling like a broom with a hellbound hangover. Not for them the somnambulent leanings of shoe-gazing: Curve curse like the most eloquent of fishwives, cuss as the coal miner would. And they create a cavernous noise, not so much a storm in a teacup as a monsoon in a coffee mug.

Like The KLF, Curve understand and exploit and dynamics fizzing at their fingertips. No matter the genre, this is stadium-sized sonic-ness gone slightly bonkers. To paraphrase a soft drinks commercial for a moment, when the table-thumping 'Think To Act' stampedes through the room, you just know you've been Curved. And much of this is to do with the band's aural identity, the instant shock factor which caused the 'Blindfold' EP to make people perform somersaults 12 months ago.

The guitars are serrated and sawing; human rhythms are magnified and monstered-up by electric boomings; basslines grumble like pensioners in a Post Office queue. Above all this, Toni Halliday doesn't so much sing as glare at the listener through a perturbed mascara'd haze, hammering home the hurt/threat/disgust inherent in such cheery blasts as 'Wish You Dead' and 'Lillies Dead'. The latter's aching grace, in fact, is probably what Shakespear's Sister could aspire to if they cut the rockist crap.

Best of the bunch by several centimetres is the menacing 'Horror Head', with its distant ethnic kazoo effects and wall-climbing harmonies. Here, even Toni's gulps for breath are rendered perfect by the production. The title track itself is more about mood than pure melody, creeping through the cobwebbed shadows, while 'Already Yours' is a motorist's dream, aerodynamically immaculate and gleaming in the fast lane.

So there's bally all wrong with the bones of 'Doppelgänger'; its just the puffy, fleshy bits that could do with trimming. There's a tendency for Curve to throw everything including the new fitted kitchen into their songs, which is great for those snack attacks, but not so good for deciphering their sensory overloads. Eventually, their power becomes their Achilles' Heel as Curve - somewhat paradoxically- steam through in a dead straight line.

This is fun and fine for, say, the first side, but by the time 'Ice That Melts The Tips' and 'Split Into Fractions' stagger into fuzzy, frenzied view, 'Doppelgänger' has ground the onlooker down into a small, barely significant pile of dust. Now, I'm all up for a good grinding now and again, but appreciating Curve's technical tactics and emotional furnaces becomes rather tricky when you're nothing more than a heap of particles and under threat from passing dogs seeking to empty their bladders.

So it's with no little relief that 'Sandpit' sidles in during the closing credits; the calm after the storm, this is a strange, breathy thing with windswept rufflings and an almost pathologically serene air about it. To all intents and purposes, 'Sandpit' is Curve meeting Eraserhead and saying that's the first album out of the way- now looksee what the second one could be like.

"I'm just trying to do the right thing", whispers Toni, pensively. You've got it.

7 (out of 10)

review by Simon Williams (nicked from 'New Musical Express', dated 7 March 1992)

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