From the age of 17( I'm now 41) up until it's quality demise after Allan Jones left as Editor to start up "Uncut" the highlight of my week was on every Wednesday getting the "Melody Maker" and then perusing all the latest releases and seeing what was new. Only once in all that time did a release cause so much excitement that it was reviewed a full month before it was actually available in the shops. That was "The Blindfold E.P." by Curve, which got The Stud Brothers in a right lather and me so tingling with anticipation that I pre-ordered it and bought it on the day of release in March 1991. It says everything about the coruscating brilliance of Curve that I wasn't disappointed. In fact "Ten Little Girls" was, and is so unremittingly fantastic, that it actually exceeded my expectations. Heady days.
This C.D. contains that epochal first E.P. plus their next two "The Frozen E.P." and "The Cherry E.P"plus an extended version of "Fait Accompli". Of the three the first is still the best, but stylistically very little changes throughout the course of these three releases. Layers of scalding guitar courtesy of Dean Garcia flame throw the horizon with the odd rogue note sparking off at a tangent. Thunderous bass lines patrol the layers supplemented by dense but precise percussion. Meanwhile Garcia,s song writing partner Toni Hallidays wonderfully cool vocals provide a delicious counterpoint to the instrumentation like she's above all this and can just about be arsed to bother with this singing lark. The fusion of rapper JC100 into "Ten Little Girls" is inspired. It shouldn't work but it does, adding an aura of oblique tension to the song. "I Speak Your Word" has a funky edge in it's slivers of flickering noise while "No Escape From Heaven" welds it's tale of a lovers obsession to a fantastic melody that cartwheels sonic sparks, like The Beach Boys covered by The Slits.
First track of "Frozen ", "Coast is clear" is ushered in by what sounds like some sonorous woodwind instrument, then the guitars kick in. Throughout "Frozen" the sound is heavier and more streamlined and Hallidays vocals are buried deeper in the mix. The title track allows glimmers of air into the turbulence, and the vocals are allowed more space, even multi tracking for the chorus. "Zoo" is a touch one dimensional with its repetitive drum beat and lack of dynamic range, but still has a killer chorus line.
"The Cherry E.P." is perhaps were Curve should have stretched their wings a little and looked to take the limits of their sound out to new extremes like MBV did on "The Glider" E.P. But basically it's more of the same and it's still pretty wonderful. First two tracks "Clipped "and "Die like a Dog" are especially fine. Tiny details like the way the backing eases away for the chorus on "Clipped" or the added layer of wah wah on "Die Like a Dog" show they were progressing but they unfortunately allow a recidivist approach to "Galaxy" and "Cherry" though there is enough to pique the interest. "Galaxy" via it's use of layered vocal s and "Cherry" with it's use of silence and ambient breaks, but compared to what's gone before these aren't gob smacking songs. "Fait Accompli" percolates looped effects and an unusually gregarious vocal from Halliday.
Despite my pedantic criticisms this album is a breathtaking encapsulation of what made Curve so special and jemmy's just about all of their most vital work into its thirteen songs. After the first three E.P.s they were never that special again, as I've intimated never really developing their own version of guitar nirvana beyond what was on offer here. In truth they were never going to top "Ten Little Girls". Now that really is one of the greatest songs of the last 25 years. "Angels" my hairy left armpit.
This collection takes in Curve's initial ep's: Blindfold, Frozen & Cherry from 1991 & has a bonus extended take of 92's single Fait Accompli.
Blindfold was mindblowing stuff, described by Julian Cope in a music weekly as sounding like "an indie Kate Bush" it was deep dark sexy stuff pre-empting the tepid Garbage by several years. Opening track Ten Little Girls fused Dean Garcia's soundscapes with Toni Halliday's sexy/sinister vocals- what makes this track is the rap by JC001 in fusion with Halliday's lead & backing vocals. This really is the sound of fusion, elements of dance-indie-goth-shoegazing-rap can all be located. This is what was so interesting about the early 90's- other examples of similar openminded experimentation can be found on records like Glider, Weekender, Higher Than the Sun, Telephone Thing ,Fool's Gold 953, Q-Mart,Perfume etc...The rest of the ep is as great- I Speak Your Every Word drifting between Halliday's lead & backing vocals, fusing with the noises (though sadly the JC001 version from the Cherry 10" is not to be found here)...Blindfold opens as more of a trance-dance track, an industrial type beat comes in alongside a Cure/Magazine style guitar. But it's final track No Escape from Heaven that is best (it was a highlight of their set supporting The Boo Radleys in 1991 at London ULU for me)- a great pop song fused with sonic experimentation: "Hold my hand in summertime". Amusing that Madonna's Ray of Light album is not that far away from this (see Candy Perfume Girl). The final refrains of "Hold Me/Hold me like you used to" sounds great against alien whirring noises not unrelated to AFX Twin's Didgeridoo. Great stuff.
Frozen was almost as good, Coast is Clear having some odd pipe noises on but being the least interesting track here- dark ballad The Colour Hurts & Frozen were much better songs. Final track Zoo has some nice male backing vocals at the beginning, highlighting the way Curve mixed up the pretty/ugly (or whatever symbiotic analogies you can come up with). Next ep Cherry saw a slight formula apparent- lead track Clipped had similar post-rave noises to Coast is Clear, while Cherry was slightly dull & nondescript. Better was Die Like a Dog & Galaxy- as good as anything on the first two ep's. Finally there's the extended take of Fait Accompli- pity b-side Arms Out isn't included, ditto Horror Head b-side Falling Free (one of their best moments- I Feel Love meets 10 Little Girls).
Curve's debut album Doppelganger was rather average compared to all this, though follow up Cuckoo was much better; I haven't heard anything from them since 1997's Chinese Burn (used in an ad). Listening to these releases it reminds me how good Curve were & that perhaps I should check out their more recent material.
Curve are a great band, but their more recent work seems to be too self referential with rather too much leaning towards that overdone darkwave dark-techno sound.
Having bought all of their LP's but none of their EPs, I saw this compilation, and I'm glad I bought it!
This is their best record, much less immediate than their latest work I have got ('Gift'), but longer lasting. Given that it is also a compilation, its strange that it seems to hang together much more than some of their LPs, particularly 'Come Clean'.
on 20 January 2004
Curve's first three EP's were a fantastic trilogy of dark, turbo-driven power indie not equalled since. Bear in mind that Curve's peers included the likes of Transvision Vamp, the Primitives and arguably the Sisters of Mercy, these records were a massive breath of fresh air.
I was an indie DJ in Birmingham when these EP's were released, and I can still clearly remember the night when I first gave "Coast Is Clear" a full play on the massive club PA - spine tingling stuff.
The band that Garbage perhaps could have been....
on 10 September 2010
This is the best Curve material. Edgy, anxious, visceral, exciting...and not over-produced. There are so many gems on here - 'Blindfold', 'The Colour Hurts', 'Clipped', 'Die like a Dog' and 'Galaxy'...The weakest track is the later add-on of 'Fait Accompli', which sounds sanitized and tame in it's over-production. If you like the album 'Doppelganger' then you should love this.