Monday, October 6, 2008

kick-ass songs of the '90s: curve, "faît accompli" (the '90s, pt. 2)

I inaugurated my '90s series last week with this way too long introduction to the subject. Between its premise (which is mostly "the '90s sucked musically compared to the '80s") and my Jay Tarses(es) series this weekend, I've gone on too long about things I don't like. It's time for some positivity about things that I love.

So today, we're gonna talk about one of the greatest songs of the '90s, Curve's "Faît Accompli." This 1992 single from their debut album, Doppleganger, is one of the most badass things I've ever heard - or in the case of the video, seen. The opening electro-percussive twitchery immediately intrigues the listener, and then - vroooooom! - there's the whole band, led by Dean Garcia's giant wall of guitar. But instead just raining a hail of feedback through the whole song, as fun as that would have been, the band immediately displays a sense of dynamics by having the guitar drop out.

What comes to the fore then is ominous low-end that was there all along, a bassline that sounds less like a bassline and more like something cold and evil rumbling up through the earth. And then Toni Halliday starts singing:

Every day, there is some kind of darkness
That just won't go away no matter how hard I try

As Toni intones that last line, the guitar reengages, and though the tone's already set, the pivotal line's next:

It crawls into your system while your guard is down

The first few times I heard "Faît Accompli," I heard this as "while your God is down," which I also like. But either way you hear the line, the same thing's happened: God, or one's guard, like a firewall, has crashed, and something cruel and evil exploited the gap immediately.

By the time Toni sings the last line of the chorus, she's either shifted perspectives or become fully possessed. Because when she sings

My name is Fate

it's not her anymore. It's something ancient, powerful, dark, and deep that's speaking, something older than the Christian God and Lucifer - something like, well, Fate.

And when Fate speaks its come-on in the song's bridge - and by now the low-end menace has congealed into a pulsing, primal rhythm - you can't turn your head away, you can't refuse:

I've come to crush your bones
I've come to make you feel old
I've come to mess with your head
Cos it'll make you feel good
I've come to make you feel good

Few songs conjure up this kind of primal power for me - P.J. Harvey's Rid of Me and "Down By the River" (contenders for this series within a series) and Shriekback in the days of Jam Science and Oil & Gold. Even the darkly punning title of the song is perfect: Fate is a done deal.

I enjoy the rest of the Curve catalog, but nothing they did before or since has matched "Faît Accompli"'s impact on me. This thing is a sonic tour de force, and if it's not the best song I heard in the '90s, it's damn close.

It's a rare thing for a video, but the one for "Faît Accompli" actually adds to the experience. It's sort of a performance clip, as the band is playing instruments in it, with smoke and wind machines aplenty. The choice to have the camera thrust up into the band creates motion and energy, and the perspective helps unsettle the viewer - guitarists everywhere but with the instrument centered in the frame and heads and feet often cut off, and often the only visible face is Halliday's sultry visage, at the height of its full "my name is FATE!" power.

Despite the band playing their instruments for the length of the video, it's less like we're seeing Curve play a song, and more like we've intruded on a ritual. There's a group of ominous hangers-on in the wings who appear to be waiting for something besides the load-out. The most prominent one among them is a Jean Kasem-like blonde woman, whose purposeful arm gestures and dancing lend a cult feel to the proceedings. But even more disturbing to me is the presence of the sheep - I immediately wonder if he or she is going to survive the evening, and several times later in the video, the hangers-on appear to be wrestling it to the ground. The sense of power and menace is just as keen in the video as in the song, and I highly recommend both.

If you want this song and video to crawl into your system, let your guard down here:

By the way, the best mix of the song, in my opinion, is the one used in the video. It's neither the album version on Doppelganger nor the long mix on the Pubic Fruit compilation; instead, it's the punchier Flood mix that, as far as I know, was only on the Faît Accompli EP. So if you really like this song as presented here, that's the version you should seek out.

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