Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Oliver: Curve - Arms Out [Peel Session] (29 February 1992)
Peel's near month long run of airplay for tracks from Curve's debut album, Doppelgänger reached its logical end-point on 29/2/92 with their second session for him.
I spoke about "Curve fatigue" setting in for me in my notes for the show on 23/2/92. A sense that, as Peel himself had been moved to hint in response to an excitable press release, the band were a bit one-note when listened to over an extended period. It's certainly happened between my first hearing of the session, and the time for selecting and writing about it. On first listen, I had 3 out of the 4 tracks earmarked for inclusion, with only Die Like a Dog failing to make the cut. But after listening again, I found myself going cool on Split Into Fractions which seemed too formulaic, while the session version of Horror Head felt inessential next to the album version.
But Arms Out, a B-side to the Fait Accompli single was never in doubt. Built around a battering, trebly riff, it showcases something that all too often got buried among the shoegaze wall of sound: a genuine sense of feeling and emotion. It helped that Curve were blessed with a singer in Toni Halliday who wanted to be heard and who conveyed in her performances a mix of urgency, frustration and protectiveness towards the subjects of her songs which meant Curve were never anywhere near as fey as some of the waifs who whispered along with the storm of noise that the guitars and their pedals kicked up in lieu of any other ideas.
The psiren lead singers of many of the shoegaze bands of the time often sounded like mirages offering succour to the wounded and the heartsick, but the thinness of their voices made them seem like the friendly would-be lover you couldn't actually go near for fear of breaking them or turning them away with your own frustrations and rage. Toni Halliday, as her performance and sentiments show here, was a safety net, a life jacket, a warm massage and protective embrace all in one.
Video courtesy of Felix Stairs.