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Ahead of the Curve by Arleen Colone

April 1998

Curve, the British band who defined what industrial and electronica would be in the late '90s, has proven that true artists often suffer for their craft. In the midst of their nine-city Come Clean US tour -- their first in five years -- Curve has weathered one misfortune after another. Through it all, however, they have managed to deliver powerful live performances and to display a commitment to their musicianship, proving that despite an extended sabbatical, Curve has never really gone away.

Dean Garcia (bass, production, songwriting, programming, among other talents) and Toni Halliday (vocals and bewitching musicianship) are the nucleus of the band, rounded out by the guitar talents of Rob Holliday, and a revolving door of drummers, stopping at the moment with original skin-basher Steve Monti.

"With this tour we're just sort of testing the water, to go out and see what's happening," says Garcia. "We plan to come back in May or June, if we can keep on playing well."

Playing well has never been a problem for Curve, but a number of recent mishaps has threatened to dampen their spirit. First, Steve Spring, the drummer hired for the new tour, lost his cool with the United Airlines staff on a flight to their Toronto gig. Deciding this behavior did not bode well for band moral (or publicity, for that matter), Curve promptly replaced him with Steve Monti, the band's original drummer.

Monti went on to have a calamity of his own, leaving his passport on the tour bus and therefore missing a flight to a Cleveland gig. This and the arrival of a tornado forced the band to reschedule the show for the next day. The mishaps continued in New York City where problems such as overcrowding and technical glitches hampered the gig. Nevertheless, the tour rolled on, with Curve performing to sold out audiences in every city.

When the band formed in 1990, the genre currently known as Electronica was in its nascent experimental stages. A short five years later, following the release of two LPs (Doppelganger and Cuckoo), a host of singles and EPs, and the cultivation of a substantial cult following, rumors of the progenitor's break-up began to circulate.

"We were forced to make a statement to the English press that we had broken up," remembers Garcia. "It came at kind of a crossroads for us. The last American tour we did [in front of 40,000 people with the likes of The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Spiritualized] was quite hard going for us. We stopped so we could just sort of step back and get in touch with each other and everything. We did it to get the hunger for music back. It was becoming no fun for us, and we had always said to each other that when it's like that, we'll just stop, so we did."

During their hiatus, Dean produced various artists, while Toni attempted to re-invent her vocal skills in the vein of Kurt Cobain with the band Scylla. The duo stayed in touch, however, which ultimately proved fruitful.

"Toni just came around one time and I had this track going. We realized that it was brilliant and really liked it. So we gave each other six weeks, and said, ‘We'll start working in the studio and see how it goes,' see if it's worth it, and it was quite obvious to us -- it sounded really exciting and good."

The new material landed the band a deal with Universal Records, and eventually became the latest CD, Come Clean. The first single, "Chinese Burn," an infectious track chockfull of eclectic and boundary smashing rhythms, showcases Curve's masterful industrial sound.

"It's weird, really. You get a band like Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers, and they're seriously electronic, [but] we try to have other things going on as well. [Toni's sensual vocals, for one.] It was happening way before even we were doing it, basically drum beats and guitars, with Run DMC and that genre years ago. People have always been pushing it out, but I think people are a bit more ready now than they were then, a bit more receptive."

Fans old and new packed the tiny Knitting Factory on April 3, 1998 for Curve's New York City gig, a sold out affair that attracted Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan, a Curve fan and friend, to the cramped environs. Forced to pack a five-piece band with impressive equipment on a stage the size of a dinner table, the band made the best of it and played a show worthy of an arena, complete with bales of smoke and dazzling lights.

"Coast Is Clear," an older track, opened the set, followed by the hit single from Doppelganger, "Fait Accompli." Unfortunately, the track paled in comparison to previous live versions, possibly because of the absence of a second guitarist. New guitarist Rob Holliday gave an exceptional performance, but the dense layering and multi-guitar effects creating the symphonic sounds on Curve's album were noticeably absent. Curve should seriously consider Debbie Smith, their original second guitarist (currently free from her stint with Echobelly), as the next addition to their ever evolving line-up.

The band was obviously in high spirits for the evening, but the lack of a good sound system gnawed away at the quality of the show. A faulty stage monitor, responsible for marring the drumbeat at the start of "Dogbone," caused Toni to promptly end the song midway. Fortunately, after this, the set continued without another hitch.

At the gig, Curve exhibited a freshness not heard since 1993. Toni's voice is still hypnotic and sexy, while Dean's bass exudes a thunderous roar from hell. Tracks like "Missing Link," "Recovery" and "Dirty High," went over well, and the encore, the current single "Coming Up Roses" and the tune "Die Like a Dog" made the crowd scream for more. Despite a few years under their belt, which can only be a good thing really, Curve seems to be in their prime now, ready for another assault of the US shores.

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