90 songs of my Nineties youth : Belly – Feed The Tree

To catch up on what 90 songs of my Nineties youth is all about, read my intro to this series. This week, Belly’s Feed The Tree

The Song

Tanya Donelly was already an indie hero before my friends and I had any interest in indie music, having been in both Throwing Muses and Breeders. Belly, however, were her own creation, lone frontwoman for the first time, no longer in the shadow of Kim Deal or Kristen Hersh. Belly was also our introduction to her music, in particular ‘Feed The Tree’.

I first heard the song on a cassette compilation of mainly American indie and alt-rock groups. It immediately stood out amongst the grungier bands that dominated the era. Its’ influences seemed to be the shimmering, melodic indie bands of the 1980s, rather than the shouty quiet/loud/quiet dynamics of their contemporaries.

What stood out most of all was Donelly’s voice. Melodic and sweet but also powerful with a raspy edge, I’ve still not heard anything like it in all the years’ since. When she belted “I know all this and more” in the bridge, it was impossible not to pay attention, and she swiftly became a favourite amongst us indie kids of the time.

Does it still sound good today?

It does indeed. Whilst you can tell it’s from the nineties, as much from the production as anything else, it never sounded totally of its’ time, so it hasn’t really dated. The two line chorus “Take your hat off boy when you’re talking to me, and be there when I feed the tree” sounds as perfect as it ever did. Belly are not a band especially well remembered by music history, but ‘Feed The Tree’ stands as one of the best songs of the early nineties, and is far from Belly’s only great song.

What happened next?

Belly only lasted a couple of years after the release of ‘Feed The Tree’, but Tanya Donelly has continued a long and fruitful solo career, starting with songs like ‘The Bright Light’ that were not entirely dissimilar to Belly, but gradually progressing to a mellower sound over the course of her career. Having been lucky enough to see her live just over a year ago, I can confirm that the voice is as great as ever, and we even got the odd Belly song thrown into the mix for old time’s sake.

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