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"Warp Factor Nine"

(pic:  Richard Stansbie) Liverpool University

ABOUT a minute after it all stops, you want it back, you want it so bad. When it's on, you're never quite sure. I've never been a serial killer - well, not for years, but I imagine they experience the same synaptic short-circuit. The oblivion buzz, the reds and whites and dizzy diamond explosions. Curve are not pretty or prissy or precise. They slash like Stanley knives in a snowstorm. And they never, ever stare at their shoes.

And, of course, writing about Curve without mentioning Toni Halliday is like trying to stitch syrup. You can read a million words, persuade yourself you know what to expect and still get blown away by a charisma that's part black hole part combusting galaxy, at once seductively menacing and alarmingly open. When she stands at the lip of the stage gripping the mike and starts to sway, the audience are like rabbits caught in the headlights, hypnotically rooted on the thin line between ecstasy and terror. It's not the sort of thing you can just amble past. And, like all the best Bad Angels, she knows exactly how to enchant. There's self-consciousness here and Curve are all the better for it.

Curve don't believe in building up. The opening salvo of "Think And Act", "Arms Out" and "Split Into Fractions" start torrential and glue themselves to the rapids. You just know you're in for the duration. Guitarist Debbie is an unsung hero, pacing the stage in her Pervert tee-shirt like a diminutive Peter Hook, wielding her axe like she's spoiling for a fight. Alex and Dean are less volatile, but equally imposing. It's impossibly glamorous, but get too close and you'll find yourself ricocheting off walls. It's an unexpectedly cathartic experience.

"Coast Is Clear" is glorious, betraying a crisp pop sensibility that's rarely acknowledged, the flipside to the less containable soundscape of "Die Like A Dog". During the latter the lights fail, an enterprising photographer providing the only onstage light with stroboscopic flash. It's a marvellous moment, all shadows and splinters and fractured energy, a trip just waiting to happen.

As a card-carrying believer in dance music as the most reliable and invigorating salvation we have, I'm convinced that Curve belong in that camp rather than with any sort of retro losers. They're one of the few guitar-led bands to communicate the immediacy and power of complete abandon, rarely allowing unnecessary individual dominance to impinge on proceedings. You can see things happening, but you're never quite sure where they originate, who's responsible. "Fluidy spike" comes to mind as a description, but then so does "Wow!". You don't even want to take time off to think about it.

"Faît Accompli" is less harnessed than on vinyl, sweeping you with it into the frenetic swirls of "No Escape From Heaven". "Doppelgänger" and "Ten Little Girls" ram-raid the encore slot and Curve skip across the smoking, glittery wreckage. You come round and the world seems so quiet, so flat. There's blood on your hands, a body in the icebox and a whole boxful of clockwork oranges littering the floor. Corruptive, corrosive and very nearly miraculous. You limp away like Lazarus.

review by Paul Mathur (nicked from 'Melody Maker', dated 14 March 1992)

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