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Belly | Sweet Ride, The Best Of (4AD)
It's sad that this album now boosts the band's output by 50%. They had so much to offer, more than just filling the gap from Throwing Muses to Tanya Donelly's solo career and so deserve a 'best of' - even if most of it is b-sides. Then again, they did release some stormers, each single was accompanied by tracks that most bands would kill for. The album has sleeve notes by Tanya to offer some insight to her, sometimes, bizarre songs. I mean, not many people would write a song about adulterous women wearing dead canines which forms the basis of Slow Dog. Few would cover a Disney song either, but she coils her voice around Trust In Me to give it a seductively menacing new slant. Not content with that she also takes on Gram Parsons and Jimi Hendrix with Hot Burrito #1 and Are You Experienced? respectively, the former all heavy with breathy sighs, the latter loaded with groaning knowing. As is obligatory on 'best of' albums there is an unreleased track or two and here we have a live version of Dusted that shows this was more than just Tanya's band, the rest of them played their part in making the Belly sound, from Gail's bass and, understated, vocals to the Gorman boys, Chris and his loping drums and Tom and his chiming swirling guitar. Another 'new' song is Lilith which is a slightly awkward affair that has all the right ingredients, but fails to gel. That can't be said much though on this record. They may have had a short career, but it shimmers with melody and beauty. Feed The Tree still sounds as bouncily fresh now as it did when it first launched itself from the radio and into your brain and Seal My Fate is just wondrous, skipping in all coy before slapping you around the back of the head with its glorious driving guitars. If you want your heart broken, then Tanya is your girl. Most of these songs have a sadness and singing in French on Judas Mon Coeur makes it doubly so. That's nothing, though, compared to Broken. Possibly their finest four minutes and a track that was previously consigned to various film soundtracks. This is a stunning song. It just smacks of despair and longing, "I spy on the circus that make up your friends," she sings as if she means it, her voice cracking. She even makes the line "the curve of her ass is unparalleled" sound like it's the worst thing in the world and the final guitar notes just add to the heartbreak. That track alone is the best of Belly and the other seventeen aren't bad either.

Laurence Arnold
August 2002