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For the 1990’s alternative rock band Belly their second album ‘King’, which we delve into track-by-track this week and next, was supposed to vault the group to stardom. Instead it alienated much of their fan base and didn’t spawn any hit singles to gain the traction with the uninitiated they were counting on.
In the intervening years, however, those who bought the record at the time and gave it a chance, became like a tiny legion championing what we knew was a lost classic. Which ‘King’ totally is. Also over the course of 22 years the album found new fans too who missed it the first time around. From top-to-bottom the LP keeps going song–song of good-to-excellent tracks with no let up. From the tom-tom drum goodness of “Seal My Fate”, to the shoulda-been-a-hit “Super-Connected”, the randy rocker title track “King” to the elegiac epic closer “Judas My Heart” there’s nary a weak link.
The members of the group all hail from Providence, Rhode Island. Tanya Donnelly, the Svengali of the group, helms the band handling lead vocals, guitar and main songwriting duties. With her cherubic, cooing vocal style she’s flanked by another lovely lady on bass, the brash Gail Greenwood, who also provides choice background vocals. The four-piece is rounded out by the Brothers Gorman, Tom on guitar and Chris on the drum kit. The group may hold the distinction of being the least famous band to be featured on cover of Rolling Stone magazine, but hey, they at least got the honor.
Donnelly formed her chops in the late-80’s with the Throwing Muses, her step-sister Kristen Hersh’s project. After leaving the Muses she went and formed the Breeders with Kim Deal and had a huge hand in their debut record ‘Pod’ before striking out on her own to form Belly with the Gormans and her former band mate from the Muses Fred Abong on bass.
The debut record ‘Star’ became a modest hit in 1993 when the single “Feed the Tree” was an MTV Buzz Bin pick and helped the record go gold in the US and sell over a million worldwide. Emboldened by their unexpected mainstream success the band decided to double down for their sophomore effort and bring in major-league producer Glyn Johns and streamline their rock sound away from dreamy emo-pop into something more in the modern rock vein.
Artistically, though not commercially, it can be argued the band succeeded wildly in their aims. However, combined with the disappointment of the momentum of their career being derailed with the grind of touring with personality conflicts, the band was unable to find a way to continue and right the ship of their flagging fortunes. However the band did have a successful reunion tour last year so that gave us the wherewithal to revisit this fantastic disc.
Join Dandy Classic as we discuss and dissect one of my ten favorite albums ever. Where does Dan weigh in on all this..? Are we super-connected now on the podcast? We know all this and more.. so listen in and find out for yourself too.