Rod Liddle

Belly: Dove

Tanya Donelly’s first album in 23 years shows she’s a hugely underrated talent

Belly: Dove
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Grade: B+

One of my favourite songs from the 1990s was about a Chinese adulteress forced to walk around town with a decomposing dead dog on her back. ‘Slow Dog’, from Belly’s debut album Star, was mental and frenetic and possessed the kind of berserk and glorious chorus most bands would kill for. The rest of the album wasn’t bad either — the sincerely odd ‘Gepetto’ and the lowering, nagging almost-hit ‘Feed The Tree’ the best of a very good bunch.

How would you define Tanya Donelly’s oeuvre, other than as delightfully idiosyncratic? Alt-rock, obvs. Maybe neo-psychedelic post-grunge shoegazey power pop. Either way, it was too good to last. After a disappointing second album, Donelly — having achieved only cult status — kind of gave up. We were left instead with the meat-and-potato bores of US indie’s division-two chancers, who put the word ‘buffalo’ in their names. Grant Lee Buffalo. Buffalo Tom. Not fit to lace Tanya’s corset.

But they’re back: first album in 23 years and it’s OK. Some of the energy has dissipated and the edges of the music have been sanded down by a producer with a Black & Decker in one hand and a phaser in the other. But there are still those cutely off-kilter tunes and the usual lyrical esoterica. Too many songs are medium-paced and the guitars chug rather than rage, as on the lead single ‘Shiny One’ and the complex and beguiling ‘Stars Align’. Dove closes with two gentle acoustic numbers — ‘Starryeyed’ and ‘Heartstrings’ — which, given Donelly’s occasional falsetto, bring to mind Sandy Denny on helium. Good to have the woman back, though. A hugely underrated talent.