Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'd Buy Anything By...Curve

The most satisfying musical success stories are those about session musicians who "made it." When a person is GROOMED for stardom -- discovered as a waitress or a budding actor, then trained to become a star -- well, who cares? Those people are simply products, sold to us.

On a higher level are those who formed bands and toured and honed their skills before, finally, being discovered in a little club or on an indie label. This is how it normally happens, and good for them...

...but my heart is always with those talented musicians and backup singers. They get session work based on their skill and flexibility, and they spend years (if not lifetimes) playing on other people's albums, or touring as "the band" for a singer. If you read the credits on your albums you'll see these people popping up all the time, and once in a while you'll hear a song and say, "hey, I've heard that style before!"

Dean Garcia -- bassist and musician-of-all-trades for Curve -- is one of those musicians who pop up in surprising places, on albums by Eurythmics and Feargal Sharkey. By the time he met Toni Halliday -- Curve's other half, singer and songwriter -- he was ready to fly off in strange new directions. The two of them did and achieved fleeting fame before sadly fading away.

Though the band grew more electronic as they went along, the "classic Curve" sound is a sharp drum machine, a fat bass, and a wash of overdubbed electric guitars. On top of all this is Halliday, who sings in a bloodless way about relationships, love, hate. Her style is straightforward and without guile; I remember reading a review where she said that singers like Celine Dion make her sick, they spend so much time on vocal acrobatics that they forget to inject any soul. I agree: Halliday has the soul. And I wouldn't want to look too closely at it.

Initially classified as part of the early-90s British "shoegazing" scene, Curve became harsher and more experimental as the tensions in the band grew. In the "Chinese Burn" video, Garcia and Halliday seem to be reenacting the romantic problems they'd already gone through together. It was their last real hit, and I think it's a highpoint.

After a string of internet-only releases the band disintegrated. Garcia is occasionally producing CDs in his ecclectic side-project "Crosseyed Rabbit," and Halliday has...well, just disappeared. It wouldn't shock me if they got back together, but until then they've left us with a whole whack of CDs that are very, very good.

Must-have albums? Fans are divided between their early work ("Doppelganger") and their middle period ("Cuckoo"). I vote for "Cuckoo" myself, for its dense complexity and total oddness. Albums to avoid? I'm not a fan of "The New Adventures of Curve," but that just might be me. I also hear that Halliday's pre-Curve solo work is pretty bad. For fans only? The "Rare and Unreleased" .mp3 collection that you can order direct from Garcia here, and which is a mixed bag but *I* love it TO DEATH.


Anonymous said...

Curve are another of those bands I knew by reputation without having heard much of any of their music. I like what I've heard so far.

Thanks for these posts, by the way! I'm really enjoying them.

Adam Thornton said...

Whew, I thought these would be dull to read! Time for you to put up some of YOUR "I'd Buy Anything" insights!

"Curve" were definitely an oddity and -- in my opinion -- underrated. There's nothing like writing to their mailorder service to buy CDs, and then receive packages that Dean Garcia hand-drew happy faces all over. :)

Anonymous said...

Aw, that's great!

Yeah... I've actually been thinking of doing a podcast, mostly of me gabbing about my latest musical obsessions - not so much bands as elements and concepts: certain kinds of harmonies, voices and so on.

Should do some "I'd Buy Anything By" posts too, though.

Adam Thornton said...

I've never actually downloaded a podcast...yours could be my first one!