It’s been over 20 years since the last album from Belly. Music has changed but the DNA of rock hasn’t. When a band gets back together there is always that worry of what’s to come. Do they do the same thing again? Are they completely different? Do they still have that special mix of talents that made the band great for you the first time around? Belly answers all of those questions within the opening moments of “Dove”, their long awaiting reunion album. They’ve moved on and mellowed slightly with age, but at their core, they are rockers and intend to go for it.
In many ways “Dove” bends towards Tanya Donelly’s solo career with its heavier country twang vibe and mid-tempo stance for the majority of the album, but its a more amped and plugged version of Tanya than we’ve consistently heard for a while. “Mine” is a great example. The “oohs” and riffs are reminiscent of 90’s discordant alt-rock we saw on MTV and The Box. The chugging bass lines, the sound of electric guitars powering open chords and the general poise of the track – it feels like a fire waiting to take hold. “Shiny One” is quintessential Belly with positive yet out there lyrics and bombastic guitar playing that pushes riffs underneath the main song. They push you along like a surge of power without you picking up on them at first because your busy enjoying an anthemic chorus – but they are all there. It’s the ageing of musicians that are perfectly in synergy with their craft and know how they all fit together that comes to the fore. It feels effortless and amazing.
The album itself is heavily mid-tempo. “Girl”, “Stars Align” and “Human Child” are all fantastic tracks when stood alone but they do all have the same feel and makeup. If you love this type of rock, you’ll be in your element though as each one has a catchy chorus, a roaring guitar riff and in “Stars Align” – an actual guitar solo – something that is absent from most of the album. Aside from perhaps the fantastic minor chord “Army of Clay” which is a hidden gem many may overlook, there are no huge thrashers but there are some achingly beautiful ballads. “Suffer the Fools” is up there with the best ballads in the last decade. It’s simple lyrics and melody lets Donelly’s voice restlessly declare she’d rather suffer you than other fools. The sparse post whiskey blues of “Heartstrings” and the utterly cute bonus track “Starryeyed” both show off Belly’s more acoustic side which we haven’t really had too much of beforehand. When paired up with the country vibes of “Quicksand” and to a lesser extent “Artifact”, it’s definitely the most radio-friendly Belly album to date, but not at the expense of expert craftsmanship.
Belly’s “Dove” is a superb rock album. It shows off the class and expert knowledge of talented musicians that can come together and create songs that lift you up and actually make you smile. It’s got no bells or whistles on it because they don’t need it. The key here is that by packing each song densely with each instrument and its talents, you’ll be entertained over and over. On my first listen, I enjoyed it but by the fifth, I’d fallen for it – Dove’s a grower. Give it time.
Recommended track: Suffer the Fools
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