Belly’s Star is a gorgeous album from start to finish, which remains largely unappreciated. Belly was led by ex-Throwing Muses singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly, with Fred Abong (bass) and brothers Chris (drums) & Tom Gorman (guitars).
Note: vinyl had been deleted by 1990, and compact disc was the only format this (or any other) music was commercially available in– therefore the original format of this album is CD.
Belly followed up with King in 1995, then broke up the next year. By this time they had been largely written off anyways, by the Rolling Stone crowd in favor of mediocrities such as the Counting Crows, Gin Blossoms, Oasis & Matchbox 20– whose CDs now over-populate resale music bins everywhere.
Belly along with Sinead O’Connor, P.J. Harvey, the Breeders (who also included Donelly), Babes in Toyland, Liz Phair and Bikini Kill (pictured above), were female artists who truly made the most riveting rock music of that tumultuous era. Kurt Cobain was a fan of all of the above.
The collapse of the USSR, and it’s fall-back from communal property relations (controlled by a Stalinist bureaucracy) into capitalist Russia (controlled by mafia ‘businessmen’) shook the world. Borders changed, nearly instantly– but not bloodlessly. U.S. led wars-of-aggression (from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Syria) have continued in that part of the world ever since.
The heart of global capitalism is Wall Street & Washington, led by the White House which uses NATO & the UN (diplomatically), the Pentagon (overtly) and the CIA (covertly) to project the interests of the ruling class into the sphere of the former Soviet Union. Wall Street is defined as their stock exchanges (multi-national corporations) & its federal reserve banking system.
These are the richest people in the world and are (not coincidentally) responsible as war criminals. They are the true criminals who must be ruthlessly exposed and brought to justice by the working people of the world.
FYI: It’s mostly about oil, which has been the most precious natural resource under modern capitalism. Washington & Wall Street can no longer control the world’s oil supply economically, so they resort to their greatest strength– militarism. The US has (by far) the largest military budget in the world. Washington’s unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia (world’s leading oil producer) has led to the 9/11 terror attacks and sponsored the phony ‘war on terror’ in its aftermath.
These imperialist crimes have created an environmental & human survival crisis of global proportions, which only-too-recently (to most) seemed laughable, but today is all-too-real. The threat to human existence has never been greater. Capitalist leaders and their ‘intelligentsia’ have no answers, and (honestly) not much of a clue. They can best be described as philistines when it comes to art.
These were the issues artists such as Tanya Donelly (and her fans) intuitively understood back in the early 1990’s. Unfortunately their music was given its moment in the sun, then suppressed and largely forgotten– because no one in political leadership cared about art. Al Gore was VP to U.S. President Bill Clinton, and Gore’s wife Tipper led the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), whose goal was to blacklist and censor music.
Their primary target was rap & hip-hop, but any artistic expression was ultimately put in their cross-hairs. The PMRC was partially successful, as this warning label is now ubiquitous to popular music.
Now, to be carried in any box superstore (Walmart, Best Buy), albums with ‘obscene’ lyrics must be censored– otherwise the CD isn’t on their racks. ‘Obscene’ is defined by a self-appointed body of religious & political fundamentalists.
Corporate & political agendas dovetail, and when the reaction set in (Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton and their theft of the 2000 election), artists were forced underground. After 9/11, it was strictly American Idol culturally speaking, as virtually nothing artistic (in music or film) was allowed on the airwaves or in theaters.
Thus the (dialectical) concurrent rise of the Internet which revolutionized music & film with file-sharing (Napster) and powerful home computers, which now allow artists to produce their own music & film– on a budget without corporate interference. Today, nearly anyone can share their video to the world on YouTube & Facebook.
These vehicles now allow artists to directly distribute their music to fans– old & new. This empowers artists again, allowing what’s best to rise to the top based on merit– which is how it should always be.
One of the best, little-known songs on Star is “Slow Dog”– a cryptic & beautiful Donelly story, about a woman who loves a really stupid dog. The pay-off is this ‘slow dog’ manages to save her life too. They save each other’s life, which is the deepest kind of love. When you’re a really great band and you learn how to survive in the business, your major label partner (© 2005 WMG) pays for new videos– years later.
Note: the video is not trying to convey the song’s message, it’s simply the band with stop-cut editing, which is a popular ‘alternative’ video style. The official video also has a different song ending, versus the classic album version.
The college radio ‘hit’ from Star was “Feed the Tree,” a paean to childhood & environmentalism, with Donelly’s signature mastery of melody & hookiness.
“Feed the Tree” was featured regularly on MTV’s 120 Minutes, their exclusive early-1990’s ‘alternative’ programming. 120 Minutes aired late-night, when no one was watching, in an era when MTV was rapidly shifting towards reality TV. MTV’s The Real World was the original reality show, becoming an overnight sensation. By the end of the decade, MTV had mostly stopped playing videos. In 2000, CBS’s Survivor established reality-TV as a force on primetime television, and it’s been with us ever since.
If civilization is allowed to exist & survive, then eventually art will win out over this crassly commercial, philistine banality. For that to happen, people must care enough to fight for it. The dialects of all this is: art is what inspires people to act.
In early 2016, Tanya Donelly and Belly announced that they were working on new material and a limited tour. Catch them if you can.