Friday, September 14, 2012

Belly Sweet Ride / The Best Of Belly 2002

Belly was a tease of a band. They released two fine records in Star 1993 and King 1995. Star was a big hit, especially in the U.K., and garnered a Grammy nomination in the U.S. King was every bit as good, rocked a bit harder, and went nowhere. Then the band broke up, and Tanya Donelly, the band's  singer-songwriter, went on to solo work (pre-Belly, she had served in Throwing Muses and The Breeders). Some of that work is good, but Belly was her best effort, and a great band. In 2002, this excellent compilation was released, and it is all the more special because it contains lots of killer single B-sides that owners of the two previous releases have not heard. And they're very much worth hearing, which is not always the case.

This one gives you most of their singles, five b-sides, a live song, a previously unreleased bauble, a Hendrix tribute-record version of Are You Experienced?, and a French language version of Judas My Heart, a fine ballad from King. Eight songs from their two previous records, and eighteen tracks in all. Even if you have the two original releases- no!, make that especially if you have the other two - you need this one. It's also an easy-to-recommend introduction to a great band lots of people missed.

Donelly is a fine writer of both lyrics and very catchy music onto which the band puts a buzz saw edge. I love her voice, so much that I hardly care what she's singing about. It's a blend of sweet young thing and ready to explode angry woman. Her smallish voice can turn suddenly enormous. Same with the arrangements. And they sound like a band with a purpose, and a leader with a clear vision forward.

I don't have an idea what to call them. Alternative? Is that really a genre? Post-punk? Post Grunge? (that couldn't come fast enough). They rock pretty hard. They do some of that soft verse/loud chorus thing that the Seattle grunge bands specialized in. At times they almost sound glam. It's interesting melodic rock and roll with fine songs and cryptic lyrics sung with feeling, all performed by a tight band that presents a unique and unified sound. This was a great band that should have given us a few more records.

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