If I had to sum up the work of maverick graphic designer Vaughan Oliver in a single phrase, it would have to be “jolie laide” — drolly defined by literary critic Daphne Merkin as “a triumph of personality over physiognomy, the imposition of substance over surface.” (It can also be translated, roughly, into “beautiful ugly” — apropos, in this case.)
Sitting down with the reunited members of Belly in a Middletown, RI, coffee shop is a great reminder about the importance of band chemistry. My questions are frequently derailed as the group — singer/guitarist Tanya Donelly, guitarist Tom Gorman, bassist Gail Greenwood + drummer Chris Gorman — dissolves into laughter over a shared joke or surreal, salty asides. So right away you can throw out the idea that the band’s reunion after 20+ years is a nostalgia trip or a callow cash-in.
In a way, though, it’s an opportunity to rewrite history. The band, which was founded by former Throwing Muses songwriter + guitarist Tanya Donelly (she was also a co-founder of Kim Deal’s Breeders), had fairy-tale success out of the starting gate — particularly with the release of their fizzy pop masterpiece, Star, in 1993.
Star’s punchy follow-up, King, was recorded with rock producer Glyn Johns in the Bahamas and was met — unfairly, one could definitively add — with a sophomore slump-style backlash that ground the band, exhausted from endless buzz-bin touring, to a screeching halt.
You can sense how strongly they all wished for a different outcome, particularly Tanya, who began performing select King songs (and Belly songs in general) during her live sets over the past few years.
Are you one of those people who thought that Tanya Donelly’s ‘90s band Belly called it quits far too soon? Well, you are in luck, because the band has just announced—in one giddy fell swoop—a reunion tour this summer. Oh, and the band’s official site hints at new material. Oh, and there’s new merch!