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"Revolting Clocks"

Benders Toni and Dean: keep the noise down will ya? (pic: Kevin Cummins) GOSH, DIDN'T we all lose sleep worrying whether Curve were the genuine indie article when they arrived with an almighty belch called 'Ten Little Girls' two years back? Were the duo really child-eating, puppy-torturing Nazis and - worse still - friends of Dave Stewart before their conversion to visceral guitar noise? How true were the rumours that Dean Garcia never got his round in? And was that Toni Halliday's natural hair colour?

Hey! It's 1993, nobody believes that smalltime, stay-in-the-ghetto shite any more, right? Curve delivered the goods last year with a gnashing woolly mammoth of a debut album, then set about hunting down every precious indie principle they could find and cheerfully squishing them flat.

But then they got complacent. First they started giving interviews about how fragile and sensitive they are, deep down, underneath all the techno-rock sturm und drang. And now comes 'Cuckoo', an album which cranks the Wagnerian Doom Generator to full whack but then picks fluff from its navel for an hour.

It's the unrelenting grind that gets you in the end. Not Toni admonishing an ex-lover or long-lost father with deep-frozen contempt in 'Men Are From Mars' and 'Left Of Mother', not Dean piling on the criss-crossing layers of feedback turbulence until all traces of melody become flattened, but the skull-scraping noise avalanche around which Curve have built virtually everything on 'Cuckoo'. Their pounding percussion serves as the engine room to a fleet of supertanker-sized songs, all of them immense and cumbersome and impossible to halt or turn around once underway. Even simple chord changes become major engineering projects.

Which is why listening to 'Cuckoo' is like huddling at the feet of an advancing army of darkness as it shudders ever onwards, obliterating all in its path. Toni bellows Nietzchean power-worship mantra 'Superblaster' or godless prayer chant 'Turkey Crossing' at the top of her lungs, but still remains barely audible through the crackling firestorm. Which is frustrating, because delicate interludes like 'Crystal' and 'All Of One' could work just as well stripped down, and the odd haven of tranquillity would show Curve have confidence in their compositions as more than mere vehicles for sound and fury.

As it is, 'Unreadable Communication' sums up Curve's piledriver direction here. 'Missing Link' may slither out of the darkness on a bruising metal backbeat but what does it seek to convey? Toni's slightly forced reptilian croak certainly trawls the dank depths of something, but what exactly? It's no good blasting a ramshackle flotilla of indie sailboats out of the pond if the only replacement you can offer is pure decibel power alone, banishing subtlety and emotional rawness in the process.

'Cuckoo' is a technically proficient, state-of-the-art, powerful piece of work with one fundamental flaw: it is more mist than mountain, all thunder and no enlightenment. That clanking mechanoid racket you hear as it hauls itself relentlessly towards the horizon is the majestic, skyscraping, deafening sound of anti-climax.

5 (out of 10)

review by Stephen Dalton (nicked from 'New Musical Express', dated 11 September 1993)

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