The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, April 18, 2005

Curve v. Garbage: a tortoise and hare story

Garbage have a new album out; and the reviews are in. In the meantime, Curve are calling it quits.

(I'm assuming everyone has heard at least Garbage; some may also remember Stay by Shakespear's Sister, top o' the UK singles sales chart for a couple weeks in 1992. For 80s-era readers, think "Goth Eurythmics".)

As I remember it, Garbage started on the same template as did the lesser-known but more-acclaimed Curve. In both cases, studio boffins who had worked with more famous people found a starlet and formed a band. Garbage was perhaps more artificial than Curve yet managed to survive despite itself.

For Curve, this formula produced some ace singles immediately (Clipped, Horrorhead); but it took a decade for them to bind it up into a great half-album (tracks 1-5 & 10 of Gift). Garbage came up with a great half-album their first try; but it took them a decade to peter out into anonymity.

Curve's problem was that they didn't always know when to stop, in amount of noise or duration of track. Their first efforts pretty much assaulted the hearer with a "wall of sound", learnt from oft-worshipped Creation-mates My Bloody Valentine, while Toni Halliday strained her vocals as if her guts were being squeezed out. So perhaps it took them as long as it did just to learn discipline.

Garbage's winning formula meanwhile proved to be a constraint. Curve and Shakespear's Sister had been there first, and so they never could claim to be doing anything original. At first they tried to turn this to their advantage, by putting the "Curve" onto famous indie or pop hooks. As examples: their first album begins with four staccato drumbeats a la My Bloody Valentine, "Special" rips off the Pretenders, and "Push It" cites Salt N Pepa. This, and Shirley Manson's overtly sexualised themes, worked for much of the first two albums, but it could not last. Their third album was different, more personal, and didn't do as well.

When it comes down to it, I've ordered two Curve albums direct from the UK - the latest just now - and I can't say that I could ever do this for Garbage. Also, I introduced "Gift" to a fan of Garbage two years back, and she hasn't looked back since.

It was a great day when Gift came out and justified my faith in the band; it is difficult to think there will be no more from them.

posted by Zimri on 22:30 | link | 0 comments

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