What’s so ‘rollicking’ about the new Belly album? Are Tanya Donelly‘s songs just pages from her diary? Are bellies intrinsically sexy? All these questions were answered when Tanya was cornered by Damien Love.
‘Uhmm. probably sweeter than I am —< ha? ~— and meekcr than l feel.‘ is how Tanya Donelly describes the doppelganger with her name that‘s been flitting through the pages of the music press. As she readily admits. Donelly doesn‘t reveal too much of herself in ' interviews. lea‘. ing us to patch together a collage from what little is leaked out in conversation. with the large gaps being plugged by images and supposed clues in her songs. ‘In some ways. people can project what they want on to me because I'm not very ' forthcoming.‘ she concurs. ‘but in other ways it prevents things from getting manipulated and twisted. I don‘t read things and say, “(.iotl, that isn't anything like tne at all." To a certain extent it‘s like seeing a caricature of yourself.‘
Having co—founded Throwing .‘vlttses with Kristin Hersh. part of Donelly‘s caricature was already fully formed when she tuade the break to form Belly. The Muses were alter all a band OI ‘strange relations' (Donelly and Hersh being childhood friends who later became half-sisters when Tanya‘s father married ; Kristin’s tnother alter the two children had introduced them), with Hersh's songs describing a frequently dark inner landscape in turmoil. The words ‘exorcism' and ‘catharsis' were never far tuvay'ht)nrre\ieyvers'keyluaards. 1
When .S'mr. Belly‘s debut. appeared in l‘)‘)3 with its
ls Tanya’s Belly King?
eerie parade of headless dolls. dead dogs. witches. angels. bad dreams. bad dresses and all that water, it was largely seen as being little-sister-lost's turn at
5, self-analysis. Now the songs constituting the
rollicking pop—beast that is King — Belly‘s shiny new album ~ are being discussed as ‘pages ripped from l)onelly‘s diary“. Surely, it must begin to grate when
your entire output is regarded as an exercise in self- Iexanunauon?
‘Ycahﬁ she affirms. ‘to a certain extent, because when something comes our of me — even ifit is from a personal experience — it automatically doesn't belong to me any more. It becomes a universal thing,
and I wish that instead of concentrating on a song as far as how it fits into my personal life people would incorporate it into what they know and experience. They don't have to know about. me.’
So, er, given that, are there any purely autobiographical songs on King? ‘Probably “The Bees" is as close as it gets, and “Seal My Fate" is too. That‘s about being in love with someone who scares the shit out of you — ha! — and how when you give yourself up in a relationship you expose yourself to danger, and how strange it is that people do it. It‘s a very brave thing to do, and everybody does it. But they‘re the only two.‘
But hold up, did I describe King as a ‘rollicking p0p beast’ a few paragraphs ago? This from the same group that created Star, an album whose charm lay in part in its resemblance to a small girl in a bloody dress singing along to a broken music box? Well, yeah, I did. It rollicks, Donelly employing her ‘mke your hat off. boy, when you 're talkin' to me' voice throughout. She reckons the reason lies in the fact that, whereas Star was written solely by her, King is a group effort.
‘When somebody brings in a piece of music. it suggests a mood I’d never have come up with myself, and so it draws things out of me I wouldn’t have been capable of otherwise. And I definitely, just as a person, kind of got bored of frightening myself. The things I'm frightened of now are valid. Ijust spent my whole life inventing things to terrify myself with and . . . In a way, it’s a form of suppression, but it‘s a healthy suppression. There are certain things you're supposed to bury. And I’m working on that.‘
What are you burying, Tanya?
‘Oh . . . y’know. I’m burying . . . demons. Ho-hum.‘
Brrr. Right, anyway, with Donelly sounding positively lascivious on the track ‘Untitled/Unsung‘ comes the opportunity for a needless piece of titillation: Are bellies sexy?
‘Yeah. Yeah, I mean it sounds stupid because it’s the name of my band, but I do like bellies very much, and actually I don't like that ﬂat-stomached male look. I like . . . ﬂeshiness. But if you line up all the people I‘ve been involved with, there's not a single type. I think I can safely say their bodies don‘t impress me one way or the other.’
And then she dissolves into a ﬁt of malicious laughter.
Belly play The Plaza. Glasgow on Sun 5.
im— a Briny happy people
Glasgow punters are growing accustomed to record label showcases in their city after successful ventures by Postcard Recordings and Creeping Bent. But ‘From Marina With Love' — though featuring all Scottish artists — is a shop window for the wares of a German label.
Marina Records was formed by Stefan Kassel and Frank Lahnemann, who like nothing better than the late- night crooning sophistication of a
certain seam of Scottish pop. They issue Paul Quinn’s records in Europe and are building up a stable of their own, the best-known and longest- running act being The Bathers, fronted by the peerless vocal cords of Chris
Their other two signings so far are still fairly obscure in comparison, but both feature veterans of the Glasgow scene. Cowboy Mouth, whose debut album ‘Life As A 009’ has just been released, features ex-liipsway singer Grahame Skinner and ex-Love And Money guitarist Douglas McIntyre. Sugartown is former Wild River Apples vocalist Gwen Stewart plus, that man again, Douglas McIntyre.
All three bands are playing for three Sundays in a row at The Tramway, in a special event aimed at raising
Gwen tewart of Sugartown
awareness of the label and its roster. Each band will play a different set each week, making the shows unique.
‘lt’s a one-off,’ says McIntyre. ‘ft won’t be the same show that The Bathers did at the Mitchell Theatre, it’ll be a stripped-down, stripped-off affair, different from any of the shows The Bathers will do when their album's out.’
Only 100 people will be able to get In each night, but those who do will be presented with a special Marina sampler featuring two tracks from - each of the groups appearing. Advance copies of the Sugartown album and a new Cowboy Mouth EP will be available there too, before anywhere else. (Alastair Mabbott) From Marina With love takes place at the Tramway on Sun 5, 12 and 19.
The List 24 Feb-9 Mar 1995 35