Curve is one of those bands you either A) have never heard of, or B) once loved, fondly remember, and yet can't recall the last time you listened to. I'm a B. An avid reader of the British music rags Melody Maker and NME in the early '90s, I was a vacuum cleaner for every hotly tipped 12-inch EP (why 12-inch EPs? I never figured that out) that came out of England. It was a crazy time: For every winner like The Boo Radleys and Ned's Atomic Dustbin (yeah, I still love 'em, wanna make something of it?), there were the also-rans like New Fast Automatic Daffodils and, um, Cud. Reckless and young and still content to live on ramen and canned spaghetti sauce, I bought them all–the good, the bad, and the outright retarded.
Very few of those records have survived the many purges of my vinyl collection over the years, but I still own all the early Curve EPs, the ones that would eventually make up the band's excellent 1992 CD, Pubic Fruit. I don't think I knew the word "Anglophile" back in '92–but when the Rollercoaster Tour of Curve, Spiritualized, and The Jesus And Mary Chain announced a stop at Denver's Gothic Theater that year, I knew I absolutely had to go.
What struck me most about Curve's live show was how insanely energetic it was. Curve, you see, was sort of forcibly lumped into the shoegaze genre of the time–and while the still-new Spiritualized had yet to formulate its rapturous live show, Curve easily rocked as hard as JMAC that night. Guitarist Debbie Smith–later of the fairly decent Echobelly (please don't laugh)–hopped around the stage like an electroshocked Muppet. The other guitarist, Alex Mitchell, stood there with his hair in his face, doing his best J. Mascis impression while hacking slabs of gorgeous noise out of the air. And lead singer Toni Halliday stared the crowd down, cracked jokes, smiled evilly, and aimed that heavenly voice of hers to the rafters.
About Toni Halliday: Oh, man. No amount of PC brainwashing or years of dating radical feminists have diminished my drooling, Neanderthal-like lust for Toni Halliday. She was the coolest imaginable goth girl from my high school, to the power of a thousand. Sure enough, Curve gained a substantial following among goth and industrial fans, although I always thought the band's blend of bleak, heavy beats and ethereal guitar was far catchier and rock-oriented (at least early on). I liked Curve's first proper full-length, 1992's Doppelgänger, as well as the next year's follow-up, Cuckoo, although to a lesser extent; those first EPs still packed the most punch, but an entire album of that hammering gloom kind of dragged and turned drab after a while.
Curve's trajectory halted almost altogether in the late-'90s, after Shirley Manson's Garbage picked up the band's formula, dumbed it down, and made a mint off it. I was surprised to read that Curve had been releasing a slow trickle of remixes and new material via the web all the way up to the early '00s, and that Halliday had sung on a Christmas single with The Killers in 2006. I was even more surprised to hear this week that Halliday has a new solo project: Chatelaine. Believe it or not, it's actually good–piano-based, lush, and deliciously spooky–even if Halliday herself describes it on Chatelaine's MySpace site as "ramped-up Enya." That description would've made me run screaming in the other direction 15 years ago, but it sounds kinda awesome now. And Curve still warmly reminds me of a giddy and exciting time for indie music (at least in England) when shoegaze, Madchester, rave culture, and who knows what else was being diced up and chucked into a blender.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't that great of an era, after all: