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Curve's full-length debut finds them groping in the dark

photo by Andrew Caitlin

Just when it looked like Curve were about to spend the rest of their recorded lives on the EP format, here comes 'Doppelgänger', weighed down with great expectations generated by their live shows and the near-blinding heights achieved by 'Blindfold' and 'Frozen'.

Perhaps it's wrong to have such high hopes of them. They are, after all, just another band, but on the other hand we do have a right to expect something special from Curve. Those first two EP's made promises we'd hoped would be backed up by their first long player. Sadly the gap between expectation and reality has turned out to be five miles wide...

Friends of My Bloody Valentine's 'Loveless' will remember the point where the album's miasma of bleached-white noise suddenly revealed the melodies and the harmonic shock within it. But on 'Doppelgänger' that moment of recognition never really comes. Aside from one or two true glories, it's an unlovely, unloveable piece of work. It has its points of interest - a wild, wind-chilled guitar here, a lolloping drum sequence there - but it lacks any true song ideas to back these up. Again and again it's like hearing the punchline without the joke.

Ay, there's the rub. There are too few songs here. 'Doppelgänger' opens with 'Already Yours'. The drums thunder away immediately, the guitars clang in the background. Toni Halliday steps in and does an impression of someone experiencing what she imagines to be 'desire'. You could call it a song, if you could call the noise from an Ariston spin cycle a song.

For a band who seemed so innovative to begin with, Curve have become woefully formulaic. 'Wish You Dead' could well be a 12-inch remix of 'Already Yours', which itself seems to be a cover version of 'Lillies Dying'. Partly it's Toni Halliday's fault. She's a fine singer, but here she displays no emotional range: all she can be is 'intense'. So, by the end of the album you can almost see the veins sticking out on her neck. Intensity is fine if you're given something to contrast it with, but the majority of 'Doppelgänger' exists in an emotional vacuum.

'Doppelgänger' does deliver one of two sucker punches. 'Horror Head', despite that clanger of a title, is a real gem, with a warm, human tune that wraps you up from the moment the song begins. The title track, too, is a shadow of what the album might have been. Like nearly every other track here, it's driven, insistent, rhythmic and fevered, but it does have the bones of a song showing clearly through its skin.

'Sandpit' is...alright, because it seems to have been the only track they didn't write on top of a rhythm (there's no rhythm). It swirls and shifts and, for once, Miss Halliday doesn't sound as if she's singing through gritted teeth.

But back into the murk... 'Ice That Melts The Tips' starts like basic heavy metal and then turns into...another Curve song. Toni sounding like Siouxsie Sioux. 'Think And Act' is a rather routine stadium filler and 'Split Into Fractions' makes a lot of noise as its wheels spin hopelessly in the air.

'Doppelgänger' begs the question, what are Curve for? What's their claim on our attention? How do they want us to feel when listening to their music? Curve don't make you want to lie on your bed and dive deep within yourself, they don't make you want to throw yourself around in front of a mirror, and they don't, to quote Barton Fink, show you the life of the mind.

Songs like 'Horror Head' prove that Curve can find a new sense of direction. Maybe next time they'll define their aims better and take us somewhere we want to go.

** (out of 5)

review by Graham Linehan (nicked from 'Select', dated April 1992)

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