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In ten years how many proper studio albums have Curve released in the UK, their home country? Three. But blame the short-sighted music biz; this US-only release is actually the seventh Curve long-player, and the second this year.

Gift carries on right where Come Clean left off - Hell Above Water could be Chinese Burn Pt.2 - but is mixed with a dose of Cuckoo-style mellowness. Usually when a guitar band explores a 'new dance direction' it's time to yawn and switch off, but Curve just add occasional beats that make the wall of sound stronger. The two tracks involving Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) are outstanding, Want More Need Less sounds unnervingly optimistic and Perish a sort of gothic Cocteau Twins offering. Chainmail packs as much of a punch as the name suggests and Hung Up seems to be about, err, romance.

There's not much fear of these two ever going Barbara Cartland on us though. The vocals put Shirley Manson to shame with their deceptive subtlety, Dean's bass is as gutsy as ever, and with at least three potential singles it's hard to believe that their previous company couldn't be bothered to release this; it's one of their best albums yet. Get it online and order it wrapped!

**** (out of 5)

review by Keith Burnett (nicked from Meltdown, dated Winter 2001)