Dusting 'Em Off: Curve – Doppelgänger

Curve is the duo of Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia, two UK musicians who met through a mutual association with Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. It’s on Stewart’s Anxious Records that Curve released Doppelgänger and much of their early work. Curve’s sound took elements of dream pop and fused it with a far darker, heavier sound. Not quite Sisters of Cocteau Mercy or a darkwave Loveless but certainly all of that can be found here – if you know where to look. By decade’s end, Garbage would capitalize on a similar sound and style of recording. However, to quote Halliday: “[I can] see bits of Garbage in what we’ve done, just like we see bits of Sonic Youth or the Valentines … But eventually Garbage are a pop band, and Curve were never a pop band.”

For not being a pop band, Curve certainly did have swerve and swagger to fill any dancefloor. The electronic nature of their music allowed for multiple remixes, and as a result Curve climbed its way into British youth consciousness. After releasing three eps Curve was ready to unload its first full length album, Doppelgänger.

Doppelgänger is a beautifully terrifying album. The cover is a disturbing photo of mutilated naked Kewpie dolls, and with songs titled “Horror Head”, “Wish You Dead”, and “Lillies Dying” you may start to think that the dolls are more than hinting at what lies beyond the cover. Within seconds of the album’s electro-kick drum intro to “Already Yours”, you are paralyzed. As Garcia and Halliday begin to toy with you, layers of sonic fuzz, ethereal vocals and haunting lyrics encapsulate you in much the same way that the dolls themselves are mangled together. The layers found on Doppelgänger can be as equally dense as those on Loveless or as ethereal as elements of Heaven or Las Vegas. Musically the band comes at you right out of the gate in a full on frontal assault, but by the end with tracks like “Sandpit”, Halliday and Garcia are showing a softer, more forgiving side.

Doppelgänger was produced and mixed by premier producers Flood and Alan Moulder respectively. Flood had recently worked on monster albums such as Violator and The Joshua Tree, but also had a resumé filled with a who’s-who of alternative, non-mainstream artists such as Cabaret Voltaire, Ministry, and Psychic TV. His first gig was working on New Order’s Movement. Alan Moulder, through his earlier work with Flood on the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Automatic, led him to eventually produce for Creation Records where working with acts like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and Swervedriver, he directly influenced the shoegaze movement. His touch is felt all throughout Doppelgänger using sonic textures to weave in and out, helping make this album a true headphone experience, and further cementing comparisons to acts like MBV. On a side note he and Halliday would eventually marry.

When Curve first came out many derided them as not indie enough. Isn’t it great to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same? What were people bitching about? Was it the association with the Eurythmics and therefore the mainstream via Stewart? Stewart’s label, Anxious Records, was not a large outfit. The biggest acts on its roster were the Soft Parade and Terry Hall (10 years post Specials). Maybe it was just jealousy. Garcia and Halliday had hit upon an exciting and fresh sound and weren’t above hitting people over the head with it.

Perhaps in response to the naysayers, “Think & Act” and “Sandpit” could be viewed as the band’s answer to all those bitching. In a forward manner, yet not quite as aggressive as in “Wish You Dead”, Halliday sings in “Think & Act”,

“Some people say I’m false/But others say I’m arrogant/… /I won’t listen to any criticism/If they could be me for a day of their lives/Then they’d know” directly confronting any ill-wishers.

Upon listening to “Sandpit”, a softer, more subdued, side of the band’s personality can be heard delivering a similar message. I am drawn to early Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard’s voice only without all the European Gothic-ness.  Here Halliday sings with a deeper intonation while constantly being carried by what can only be called a wave of sound. Singing “You can laugh…because you think that you’re better than me/I’m only trying to do what’s right.”

Breathing into a microphone never sounded so simultaneously beautiful and shrilling as it does on the track “Horror Head”. The first thing heard on this song is Halliday’s falsetto breathy voice climbing up out of a swirl of sound. It is on songs like this that one may question the whole pop concept if Curve is claiming to never have been a pop band.

My personal favorite track on Doppelgänger was also the first single released from the album, “Fait Accompli”.  Perhaps in the way that “Think & Act” reflects a part of the band’s philosophy, this song is a perfect reflection of the entire album. From the opening line “Every day there is some kind of darkness” to the voice of vengeance calmly informing you “Don’t try to get away/I’m here to stay/My name is your fate.” Halliday isn’t so much the succubus on this track, but regardless of what ever she sings, I truly believe she could destroy me.

By the time Doppelgänger dropped in the spring of 1992 Madchester was near death, and dream pop’s evolution into shoegaze’s first wave was well underway. Upon initial listen, it would be very easy to lump Curve in with shoegaze, especially considering Alan Moulder’s work on the album. Is this wrong or fair? I won’t say. I will leave that up for individuals to make that determination. As for me, I enjoy that Curve’s fingers are in many pots. I have been listening to this album for almost 20 years and every time I hear something new.  Perhaps that is the best reason to listen.


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