Volume 93, Issue 43

Tuesday, November 16, 1999


Messenger delivers the entire package

Anywhere But Here the place to go

Dutch bio loses votes

Curiosity Shop turn back the clock

Ideal and Plasticine's efforts soft and shapeless

Curiosity Shop turn back the clock

Photo by Amy Tigani
AND NOW... WE DANCE. London quartet Curiosity Shop are peddling their '60s-influenced brand of pop, which is in no way influenced by anything German.

By Mark Pytlik
Gazette Staff

"I can't listen to FM96 at all," moans Tom Barnes, lead singer/guitarist for London-based quartet Curiosity Shop.

"It's so generic and hard to take. I don't know when or how that sort of singing style came in but it's gotta go." He's referring, of course, to the raspy, screamy rock radio voice popularized by the Eddie Vedders and Scott Weilands of the world. It seems that Curiosity Shop aren't just another generic rock knock-off after all.

Formed in 1996, Curiosity Shop see themselves as a worthy antidote to today's staid rock scene. Instead of peddling reheated angst-ridden rock tunes, the band has dug back to the '60s and come out with a sound decidedly sweeter and more musical than their contemporaries.'

It's an important distinction for Barnes, who believes that melody is the most crucial aspect of songwriting. "It's the true test," he says. "If you can play a song on acoustic guitar and it still resonates, then that's a good song."

Barnes concedes the band's efforts aren't particularly ground-breaking but doesn't seem too bothered by it. "I wouldn't say there's lots of innovation. I'm not too interested in doing something that's totally brand new or something that's never been done before, like avant-garde art. If you're gonna do something just because it's never been done before, then I don't see [the point]."

Of course, that doesn't mean the band isn't averse to trying new things. Their only effort, Above The Glass, is largely a concept album. "When I had written about half of the songs, we found a recurring theme and decided to play that up, especially since a lot of our favourite albums are concept-driven," Barnes explains.

"The whole album is connected – it's one long piece without breaks in it. It's the story of one guy obsessing over a girl and then realizing that it can't [work]."

Barnes doesn't buy into the notion that extreme emotions like obsession don't translate well in a '60s inspired context. "I don't know if I agree with that. There is a lot of really true feeling there," he counters. "They don't choose to do it like Nine Inch Nails or Joy Division, but I think there are some real sincere songs from the '60s and some real emotion in there."

Now that they've tapped into some of that emotion, Barnes sees things getting slightly more complicated for the band. He slyly alludes to some turbulence in the band's future.

"We're going through some changes," he says coyly. "We're just trying to figure out what we really want to do now – we need to get our priorities straight, work on new material and see where we're at. It's gonna be a weird year for us."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999