Curve: Unreadable Communication – Anxious Recordings 1991-1993, 4CD Box Set – Review

Curve: Unreadable Communication – Anxious Recordings 1991-1993, 4CD Box Set – Review

16th March 2024 0 By Gavin Griffiths

“Sweet dreams are made of this, who am I to disagree?” An instantly iconic and recognizable snippet from THE EURYTHMICS, but it also ties into today’s band; CURVE. Uninspiring in name, but the group certainly took the music on a tangent; blending elements of 80’s post-punk and mature shoegaze aesthetic, it’s impossible to disagree with the way they curved the musical landscape around them if you will, paving the way for a new generation of female alternative artists. Just like Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry before them. 

Having signed to David Stewart’s ANXIOUS RECORDS in 1990, sweet dreams were indeed made for vocalist Toni Halliday and guitarist Dean Garcia, as their dreams came true, getting their foot in the revolving door that is the music industry. Utilizing the SOUXIE AND THE BANSHEES and PATTI SMITH influences, with more of that indie/shoegaze style of presentation, in ways that could almost be described as proto-Britpop. 

 While signed to Anxious, the band made a flurry of releases in the early 90’s, including four EPs and two studio albums. This year, they commemorate that time with “Unreadable Communication: Anxious Recordings 1991-1993”, a four-disk compilation of everything they released over that period, with some extra live and remixed tracks. If it’s unreadable, I guess we’d better listen, shall we? Let’s check it out… 

Disk one is comprised of the four EPs bundled together into one neat little package, and it gives you a good sense of the band’s formative period under the label; and how they grew in confidence and sound. Kicking off with “Ten Little Girls”, we’re met with this, rhythmic, tribal sense of percussion and hypnotic, droning guitar. It’s very THE CURE at times, though the inclusion of JC-001 rapping mid-track is progressive for this particular genre, but it’s VERY 90s still. A solid introduction and gives an idea of where we’re going on this sensory journey. “No Escape From Heaven” initially gives off DEEE-LITE vibes with its funky psychedelic presentation, but drifts into this meandering tinny-guitar tone, and it’s a really light piece of chilled-out Indie. 

EP two opens up with “Coast Is Clear” and there’s little change tonally. Another brooding piece of lulling, alternative shoegaze, and what IS clear, it that this is the sound the band is sticking to. Toni has her hushed, angelic vocal delivery, and it’s all very bleak in the most positive sense. “Frozen” has some wonderfully light melodic harmonies backed by some icy electronic production in places, while “Clipped” has a gritter, edgier guitar tone. It’s assertive with really subtle industrial elements and an early career highlight for sure. 

Speaking of highlights, we have “Galaxy” which, while in the same genre pigeonhole that they’ve put themselves in, stands out as one of their catcher pieces; utilizing a sense of simplicity, before “Fait Accompli” ends the EP run on a high. Their pièce de résistance if you will. The track that got them noticed and arguably their biggest hit, it champions all of their traits and it’s the sound of a band who have fulfilled their vision, creatively and are completely cohesive. It’s onwards and upwards from here and the curve on that graph is going in the right direction. 

Disk two then finds us on the band’s most successful album; “Doppelganger”, and we have a band in full swing. “Fait Accompli” makes a repeat showing to bolster the album, given the attention the last EP garnered, and here we find a band at the peak of their relevancy. Opener “Already Yours” houses this up-tempo, rhythmic, percussive foundation alongside some tinny guitar play, while structurally we’re met with a lot of the same regarding the overall presentation. “Wish You Dead” delves deeper into the indie-rock aspects, with more prominent bass and more of a sense of attitude, while retaining their blend of lightly hypnotic, almost darker melodies. It’s here you can hear those post-punk elements clearer as they bridge styles and it’s an enjoyable track. As a little bonus we’re given a cover of DONNA SUMMER’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love”, which fair play to them, despite some additional electronic elements, is really quite true to the original, and is a fun little closing number. Halliday’s vocals really suit this track, it’s been chosen wisely and is delivered well. 

Disk three takes us into the bands’ second studio album and final release on Anxious, and its “Cuckoo”. With its predecessor having broken into the Top 20 UK charts, there was a bit of pressure here to follow it up and ride that wave of momentum, but sadly it didn’t do QUITE as well. The album does start strong with “Missing Link”, and it’s an interesting shift in tone. While Halliday’s vocals remain rooted in her hushed, lulling timbre, focussing on subtle melodic transitions, the guitars here are noticeably gritter, heavier if you will and there’s a lot more emphasis on the rock aspects of their instrumentation, as though taking in the exploding grunge movement they’ve found themselves in the middle of, and incorporating it into their own sound. 

Tracks like “Turkey Crossing” dabble more in elements of light industrial, as there’s a distinctly mechanized underlay to the track, very prominent during the intro here, which shows further growth, before “Super Blaster” returns to their sonic roots. A very mellow offering, a vibrant chorus but, nothing new. “On The Wheel” does house some, tribalist industrialism with an interesting rhythm, but really, it’s as diverse as things get here all in all. The remainder of the album finds comfort in familiarity and it’s sadly back to square one for the most part. The wheel might be spinning, sure, but the hamsters are dead. 

Disk four then offers up the little extras, such as some live performances from Manchester and London, and some alternative mixes. A third showing for “Fait Accompli” being the highlight here can only really disappoint truthfully. APHEX TWIN put their spin on “Falling Free” but you are more likely to fall asleep if anything, with around seven minutes of icy atmospheric synths and jittery electronica, at best you could say it sounds like a glitched loading screen on an original PlayStation. The Headspace mix of “Rising” blends hauntingly angelic synths over a plodding arrangement of progressive trance, but the only real thing rising is my intolerance level. This disk is purely for whatever remaining die-hards of Curve are out there, for sure. 

While it’s undeniable that Curve, and era peers like ELASTICA had an influence on bands such as REBUPLICA and, notably GARBAGE, who to this day are still successful themselves, they were just a little ahead of their time. While leaving the pomposity that was the sleazy cesspool of glam metal, and entering a grubbier, raw era of grunge, they fit into neither of these genres, as the industry made a huge shift in what was considered the “In Thing”. Their blend of dark indie and electronic shoegaze was their OWN thing and despite brief success, they found themselves fading away into obscurity, eventually splitting up in 1994. They did reform in 1998 for album three, “Come Clean”, but the ship had sailed by that point. Despite a couple of tiny hints at progression, over four EPs and two albums, the band made little to no effort to change, and while it can be admired that they stuck to their guns, kept their sound and identity, and inspired some of the aforementioned, it was ultimately their downfall, as is evident here, they were a bit of a one-trick pony.  

Are they awful? Of course not, and they ARE an important piece of the puzzle for female representation in alternative music, but, they peaked right off the bat and the curve slowly went south. People often say that a certain song or, single can define an entire band…well in Curve’s case, their fait accompli was quite literally that, they changed the course of female music in their own unique way, in a world ruled by NIRVANA and PEARL JAM. Unreadable maybe, but unlistenable? No. “Doppelganger” is certainly worth revisiting, and you should give them a nostalgic listen at the very least. 

Score: 6/10
Track List
1 Ten Little Girls
2 I Speak Your Every Word
3 Blindfold
4 No Escape From Heaven
5 Coast Is Clear
6 The Colour Hurts
7 Frozen
8 Zoo
9 Clipped
10 Die Like A Dog
11 Galaxy
12 Cherry
13 Fait Accompli (Single Version)
14 Arms Out
15 Sigh

1 Already Yours
2 Horror Head
3 Wish You Dead
4 Doppelgänger
5 Lillies Dying
6 Ice That Melts The Tips
7 Split Into Fractions
8 Think And Act
9 Fait Accompli
10 Sandpit
11 Falling Free
12 Mission From God
13 Today Is Not The Day
14 I Feel Love

1 Missing Link
2 Crystal
3 Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
4 All Of One
5 Unreadable Communication
6 Turkey Crossing
7 Superblaster
8 Left Of Mother
9 Sweetest Pie
10 Cuckoo
11 On The Wheel
12 Triumph
13 Low And Behold
14 Nothing Without Me
15 Rising (Original Mix)
16 Half The Time (Original Mix)

1 Coast Is Clear (Live/Manchester/91)
2 Die Like A Dog (Live/London/91)
3 Fait Accompli (Extended, Extended, Extended…)
4 Horror Head (Single Mix)
5 Falling Free (Aphex Twin Remix)
6 Missing Link (Single Mix)
7 Missing Link (Screaming Bird Mix)
8 Rising (Headspace Mix)
9 Half The Time (Honey Tongue Mix)
10 Superblaster (Single Mix)

Record Label: Anxious Records / Cherry Red Records

Release Date: February 23rd (Available Now)

For all things Curve, click HERE and to purchase the album, click HERE


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