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Music review Still some fire in Donelly's Belly

Belly
Leeds Beckett University

TANYA DONELLY was recording a series of swansong EPs and planning her retirement from the music industry when the opportunity arose to tour with a re-formed Belly in 2016.

The Rhode Island quartet, who’d burned out after the commercial failure of second album King, had such good fun that they decided to work on some new songs. The result is the just-released Dove, their first original material in 23 years and their most collaborative effort to date.

This isn’t the only indication that time has healed any rifts among the personnel. The two-part set is characterised by the affectionate teasing families indulge in. Bassist Gail Greenwood is the ringleader, walking on stage and immediately informing drummer Chris Gorman that he can text during the largely acoustic Thief.

With her outspoken humour and punk-rock posturing, which made her a natural candidate to briefly join L7 in the late ’90s, she makes an effective foil to the more reserved Donelly. The frontwoman and guitarist appears self-conscious when not wrapping her elemental vocals around crunching alt-rock chords or shimmering, gothic tremolo.

Fortunately there are plenty of both in evidence tonight, whether on the twisted folk fairytale of Gepetto or the vicious heaviness of Super-Connected. The tracks have a freshness that transcends wistful nostalgia, with the cornerstones of their oeuvre being heard in '90s revisionist acts such as Waxahatchee.

The newer material is in many ways the natural continuation of King, divided between the straight indie-pop of Shiny One and the more country-influenced Starry Eyed. They may lack the spark that ignited the earlier material but in no way besmirch the band’s reputation, making it a small mercy that Donelly put those retirement plans on hold.

Belly play the 02 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, on June 20: box office: academymusicgroup.com/o2shepherdsbushempire

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