, Belly's 1993 million-selling debut album, former Throwing Muse
Tanya Donelly created an album of haunting, edgy, melodic folk-alterno-pop that in many respects was the precursor of today's crop of female singer/songwriters. With songs like the slow-burning "Gepetto" and monster hit "Feed The Tree", Donelly proved she had an off-beat, almost perverse reading on the cradle, the grave and decay--the lyrical concerns which would later serve artists like Alanis Morrisette
and Sarah McLachlan
so well. Belly, however--boasting such impeccable alterno-rock credentials--had a hard, meaty rock sound to match their sweet, breathy vocals. And on tracks like "Angel" and the crystal-bright "Stay", the Rhode Island band proved they also had a knack for churning out incredible, catchy hook-lines. --Everett True
Originally formed in 1991, Belly were essentially the vehicle for ex-Throwing Muses, one-time Breeder and something of an indie-boy pin-up, Tanya Donelly. Along with Fred Abong, and ex-Verbal Assault brothers Tom and Chris Gorman, Belly managed to go the places where Throwing Muses hadn't really gone before, and at the time, were almost as pop as it got for legendary old artfest 4AD. Their happy/sad sugar coated indie sat well with the lighter areas - such as Lemonheads, Pond, Buffalo Tom etc - of the American rock dominance of the early nineties: the sweeter end of the gritty old flannel of grunge.
Released in January 1993, Star leapt straight into the top three, mainly due to the quality of the tunes that preceded it. Tracks such as Gepetto and Feed The Tree were indie disco floorfillers, wielding melody with a bittersweet jangle, and bought Belly a passport to Top Of The Pops. The gentle echoes of psychedelia woozing through Angel, Dusted, Stay and the beautiful Full Moon Empty Heart were equally at the heart of the Belly experience, adding shards of refraction through the stream of consciousness lyrics.
Over in the states, it went gold and found itself nominated for a pair of Grammys. Unsurprising, as Donelly's ear for a more abstract, starstruck and enlightened subject matter made it radio friendlier than perhaps those of the Muses, towards a spookier Bangles. This was pretty much the template that the likes of Liz Phair or Alanis Morrisette picked up and started spouting her million-selling guff about irony over.
16 years on, Star has aged very well. If you want a more angelic Breeders or a sugar crafted REM, and to pinpoint perhaps a forgotten, yet significant contribution to female alternative rock legacy, than Donelly, Belly and Star are it. --Ian Wade
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