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Open Day at the Hate Fest, the first long player from Curve in three years, finds the band in a more contemplative frame of mind. The sound charts a new direction, a rather laid back, ambient mood, with Toni's soothing vocals (now by and large free of the coded nature in which they appeared on Come Clean) set to a backdrop of lo-fi beats and guitar fuzz. But with no less sting in the words.

The album starts with the grungy "Nowhere", the only real 'noise' on the album and a throwback to the Curve sound of old. Its okay, but the real treats are the more experimental and loungy mid-album tracks which reveal Curve once again not afraid to embrace a new direction.

Although less diverse (and layered) than its predecessor, on ODATHF tracks like "Backwards Glance" harp back in structure to the likes of Come Clean's "Sweetback", (though sadly not quite packing the same punch). The lyrics serve up a treat, and as with 1993's Cuckoo, generally point the finger with much deftness towards one of any number of possible associates.

"Storm" carries an almost string-like backdrop in which Toni intones about growing wiser with age, while "Turnaround" is weird to the point it would perhaps be better placed on Simple Minds 'Real to Real Cacophony'. "Caught in the Alleyway", a distant cousin of 1996's "Black Delilah", would be an excellent candidate for an Oakenfold or Digweed throbbing prog. house mix. "Speedcrash" otherwise is a rather catchy (if hypnotic) journey into the drug world through the influence of yes, you guessed it, speed.

But towards the end, ODATHF rather fades away than concludes with a bang. The final track could have hugely benefited from an extra five minutes or so that would bring the album to a resounding end: a crescendo of noise (think "Unreadable Communication") leaving you breathless, wanting more, rather than musing "well, it wasn't bad in places.."

Yet for skeptics of this web only release, the CD is more than a collection of b-sides and out-takes, (just consider the attention the band has given to the album's simple but eye-catching packaging). Its sound for instance is more consistent than that of Come Clean, and the track arrangement overall much better thought out.

Best viewed therefore as a postscript to Come Clean rather than an official follow up, it is a mellowed come down after its heady highs: a night cap, not a wake-up call. Not at all a bad thing imo, and a welcome 'gift' for Curve fans. Go buy it, if you haven't already.

review by Jerome Simpson (dated May 2001)

http://www.curve.co.uk for ordering details.

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