After an absence from the music scene spanning many moons, Belly unexpectedly re-emerged this past spring, announcing both new music and a slate of shows. It had been twenty-one years the dreamy pop band last released new music, and this development involved pulling brothers Chris and Thomas Gorman out of musical retirement to join Tanya Donnelly and Gail Greenwood on tour.
They occupied a unique niche, back in the 90s, an American band with not only a British sensibility but also an affiliation with 4AD that paired them on tours with bands like Catherine Wheel. They weren’t a Britpoppy band, per se, but fit somewhere between that ethos and the ascendant grungy rock on this side of the pond. That, plus a dose of ethereal ambience that owed much to the band’s feminine leadership in a male-centric rock era.
The New Englanders scored a dizzying MTV breakthrough with “Feed the Tree,” its earnest and esoteric metaphors floating above minimalist, repetitive rhythm guitar and drum parts, not unlike fellow New England-turned-national bands like The Lemonheads and Pixies.
While some “comeback” shows scream money grab, Belly’s were suffused with joy: the joy of creation, the joy of community, the joy of returning to what you love. Their performances couldn’t be called the most polished or smooth, but their musical motif resurrected the feelings and thoughts and memories of a generation displaced, even in its moment.
Gen X’s moment seems like a long time ago — perhaps it is — but Belly’s performance reminded audiences of those simple pleasures that provided respite from broken families and low expectations: guys commingling with girls, guitars layered with drums, and escapist immersion in sonic bliss.
All Photos | Katherine Gaines
9:30 Club, August 13, 2016, Washington, D.C.