Back in the early noughties, while at college being bored and boring, I found myself ditching my classmates to wander around Glasgow alone. Self-isolation has always been very easy for me, maybe a bit too easy. But I wasn’t lonely. I had an entire city to discover! Yes, I knew Glasgow. It was an extension of Cumbernauld (rather than the other way around) and so I was comfortable in my own lane. But I didn’t actually know Glasgow. I’d kept to the same shops, the same lanes, remaining in Buchanan Street. Before college, going into Glasgow meant going to Forbidden Planet and The Warner Bros Studio Store. But when I went to college, I found a wider city. I discovered The 13th Note. Mono. Avalanche. Missing. Mr. Benn’s Vintage Shop full of clothes that didn’t fit me. I found all my favourite bookshops like Borders, Ottaker’s, and Waterstones. Glasgow finally meant GLASGOW.
Obviously the world is better with a soundtrack. At this point I was obsessed with Juliana Hatfield’s Bed. I still am, if I’m being honest. But there were also other albums. There are always other albums. Doppelganger by Curve was one of them. Really, I shouldn’t have discovered Curve. They were far from being a going concern at that point, not yet reformed. My friend Alan introduced me to them via Come Clean as ‘the band Garbage constantly rip off’ – which isn’t really the case (I’m such a fan of Garbage and their debut will pop up on here at some point), but he’d sufficiently intrigued me.
That set me up for what happened next.
One of my ways of finding new old music was Yahoo! Radio. Who remembers it? Basically, you signed in and selected a station. Alternative Rock was my favourite station on Yahoo! Radio. It was play a selection of songs based on songs you like, or rather songs you LIKE. Napster’s shockwave had made the internet a legitimate way of consuming music. Without an iPod, you had to sit at a PC and listen akin to people with records before the invention of a Walkman. Anyway, in the college library I found a lot of bands that led me to other bands.
It was at this point everything changed for me.
The algorhythm threw up a song called Horror Head by Curve.
“I know them,” I told the screen. Yes, I liked speaking to myself. That’s what happens when you spend a lot of time wandering the city by yourself. This was the band I’d been told about previously. They were a bit like Garbage, maybe.
This was…I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Toni Halliday’s voice was seductive, yet somehow malevolent. This was someone with power, I knew. I didn’t just sense it, I could feel it. Every now and again, a voice on a song cuts through everything. Nothing else matters. Thank goodness I wasn’t crossing a busy road when I first heard this song.
Dean Garcia’s bass guitar throbs throughout the song, a purr and a hiss. Beats compliment and melt together, noise summoned from an enigmatic dark place. I followed. I found the video and watched completely enthralled. Why weren’t Curve one of the biggest bands in alternative rock? I kept listening and watching and listening. Too much. But the song never lost that impact.
My next step was to find the album. I checked my Yahoo! Radio and found the song was taken from an album called Doppelganger.
HMV had Doppelganger on their shelf. A lone copy. I was ready to enlist. I bought the CD (thirteen quid, if my memory serves) and stuck it into my chunky portable CD player. Then I listened. I walked around the city, looking for new places. Something to keep the music playing. Eventually, I realised I was lost and the album was finished. I started it again and found my way back.
Doppelganger is a confident sounding record, the work of a band completely in control of their sound and aesthetic. Some critics put it as a shoegaze band, but I can’t imagine Toni Halliday looking down at her shoes. She’s going to stare you out and punch you if you piss her off. She could never be anonymous like many other shoegaze singers. Never! Alternative Rock fits, but then even the best Alt Rock understands the power of pop melody, and Curve had moments where they were very much a pop band. Doppelganger mixes a lot of disparate elements into a coherent sounding set of songs. A pinch of grunge there, a little added sprinkle of pop here. I wasn’t surprised to discover Flood produced the album. It makes a lot of sense, actually. It sounds like the ’90s, really. But mostly, I could say this is a guitar album. Guitars are made to sound every way a guitar could conceivably sound; the results aren’t always nice to hear, yet always completely suited to the song.
This music existed by the time I discovered Doppelganger, yet when it first came out in ’92, it must have been so far ahead of (sorry) the curve. How could it not be?
Horror Head, Wish You Dead, Fait Accompli, and Split Into Fractions are the highlights of Doppelganger. It’s an album of ambience over structure and these songs best exemplify the best qualities of the record and the band.
I found my way to Curve almost accidentally, but in some weird way I think they were always supposed to reach me somehow. Sometimes, when I’m in Glasgow, I’ll pass somewhere and remember listening to this album in that spot a decade after the album’s release. Music makes my memories bright again. I associate places with songs I heard, like chapters titles in an autobiography.
As for Curve, every now and then Dean pops up online with remastered albums and they even have a Bandcamp full of their material. God bless Bandcamp! If you haven’t heard Doppelganger, go and hear it now. There’s no excuse when you’re self-isolating. Really, Doppelganger is the perfect soundtrack for solitude. I found that for myself all those years ago.