20 March 2010

Retrospective on Curve’s “Come Clean”

The 1990s were a time of grunge and Brit pop, and Starbucks making its way out into the scene. Though the music industry would arguably change into a number counting, profit-obsessed mechanism in the broad band world, where talent was less important than figures, some of the best music was written in this decade. Under the radar of the hype-machine and the mainstream world, Dean Garcia and Toni Halliday would meet through David Steward, of Eurythmics’ fame. And the duo known as Curve was born in 1990. Now on permanent hiatus (they have been known to split and reform), the band released five studio albums from 1992 to 2002 and numerous compilations between, culminating in 2004’s “The Way of Curve” – a double CD release of greatest hits and b-sides. Though immediately associated with dream pop and shoegaze (because of their ethereal, breathy vocals and compressed guitars), they infused everything from electronica, rock, industrial, synthrock, and everything else in between. And the one album of theirs that has had me constantly stuck for years would have to be “Come Clean” (16 February 1998).

After three years and two studio albums, Curve took a five-year hiatus; they came back for this, their third album. And even in 2010, I cannot believe the sound that they have created, because the music is still fresh and relevant; it has really stood up to the test of time. (I was playing the album really loud the other day, and the passenger in my car actually asked, “Who is this?” fully expecting it to be a new artist.. Surprise!) Unlike the majority of bands that are trying to recapture older sounds and traditions, tweaking it a bit, Curve would have none of that. Curve, though influenced by many bands (The Cure to My Bloody Valentine) had their own distinct sound.

One thing I must say that I really admire about Curve was that they didn’t only reach out to shoegaze lovers, but were also able to reach out to lovers of industrial, the new electronica trend (led by bands like The Prodigy), and of course the old school Goths running around like vampires. Highly ambient and hypnotic at times, at others blood rushing and gut wrenching, what makes “Come Clean” an incredible album is the fact that it is really hard to define by mood or effect. With the cleaver use of drum machines, bewitching bass lines, and some crafty work by Dean Garcia, songs such as “Chinee Burn” were born. The songs could instantly be remixed for club success (an avenue they did not pursue to my knowledge); the song is an angry electronica meets trip hop meets shoegaze. By far one of the best opening tracks ever; this is my favorite song on the album. “Chinese Burn” is that song where you’re going at a constant 55MPH on the highway, and soon as the song comes on, you just have the need to bury the pedal into the floor and the next thing you know you’re hitting that rev limiter hoping for the car to go faster. It has that push and that shove that make you do what is out of the norm for a person.

Other amazing highlights on this album: the trippy “Coming Up Roses,” the post-punk “Something Familiar,” and seductive “Sweetback.” And though all of the music is recorded and produced to sound with a “range” of sonic motif, what is most impressive about the album is, as mentioned before, all the different strands of music come together in an orgiastic listening experience. Of course I could have written about their more successful first and second albums, but the reality is that “Come Clean” is their magnum opus. One listen to this album, and like countless fans, you too will be wishing for a reunion of Dean Garcia and Toni Halliday – in their own words, what we want to experience again: “I’m holding the fiddle now, playing hard. I’ve learnt my lesson in self-composure. I shout and I bellow baby… shout and I bellow… can you hear me out back?” (“Coming Up Roses”)

Track Listing:
1. Chinese Burn
2. Coming Up Roses
3. Something Familiar
4. Dog Bone
5. Alligators Getting Up
6. Dirty High
7. Killer Baby
8. Sweetback
9. Forgotten Sanity
10. Cotton Candy
11. Beyond Reach
12. Come Clean
13. Recovery.

Keep up with Curve at their homepage (occasionally updated).

Here is Curve’s video for “Chinese Burn” from Artist Direct.

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