From an old record box: Belly – Seal My Fate

It has become a consistent starting point for the old ‘old record box’ articles. I wonder how the disc in question has come to gather dust – physically and virtually, absent until now from my electronic jukebox.  For this particular vinyl I think it’s a case of hard luck and bad timing.

I’d loved 1993’s ‘Feed The Tree’ which had enjoyed spectacular amounts of airtime. On the basis of that track and the nearly-as-ubiquitous ‘Gepetto’ Belly were my first proper gig, at Cambridge Junction in 1993, supported by The Cranberries (who complained vociferously and often about the sound). I don’t remember the gig so well but not for THOSE reasons; it passed in a blur cos I was so nervous about being there. I was terrified by the volume and I’d never experienced rock up-close before, so sweaty, so physical and so messy.

After that, I never really followed-up. Perhaps it was because I was still in shock from what I had seen and heard… Whatever happened I missed the early 1995 release of ‘King’.  The fact that ‘Now They’ll Sleep’ and ‘Super-Connected’ fared relatively badly in singles charts didn’t help any. They put in a decent shift in support of R.E.M. at Milton Keynes Bowl on 29 July 1995 and I remember enjoying their set from the heights.  I think maybe I was scared to go down there and back to 1993.  Hard luck, Belly.

And that was Belly’s last chance until the summer of 1996. I forgot all about them in the crushing sadness of moving away and struggling to make a home up in the North East. I managed it eventually, and during that time finally became intimate with both LPs, ‘Star’ and ‘King’ (I caught up on them with Pete at College).  It’s hard to pick a favourite: the otherworldly, all-over-the-place debut LP or the consistent, harder follow-up ?  As it is it’s probably the former that finally wins out: as well as being the first to take a hold, it has all the best memories attached to it.

Still, I didn’t buy this ūber version (the clear vinyl 7″ catalogue number AD5007) until a few years later, and I think I remember ‘Seal My Fate’ being one of their opening numbers in 1995.  It might be that memory has played a trick on me now that I’ve watched the accompanying festival-based video.

It is a top tune and I never fail to get a rush as the drums and guitars kick in at the top of the chorus.  Tanya Donelly always had a knack for writing powerful rises and falls, wringing every ounce of drama out of circles of guitar.

Really, though, it was for b-side ‘Broken’ that I bought this.  I already had it on the soundtrack to the film ‘Mallrats’ but to be honest I couldn’t be arsed to try and find the right bit of the groove every time I wanted to hear it.  It’s also on the soundtrack to ‘Twister’ just in case you wanted to know that.

For a while I was a bit obsessed by it.  I adored the melody, loved/love Tanya’s voice, and was beguiled by the lyrics (“the curve of her ass/is unparalleled”) and the first part of the chorus, descending chords and “heaven is harsh, a fire unfaithful”.  I was transfixed by the second verse: “I know where you hide/I drive by there often”.  Mainly because it seemed such a tragic admission of pathetic unrequited love.  Turns out it’s because I misheard the next line “I spy on the surface/and make with your friends” is actually “I spy on the circus/you make of your friends.”

It’s not actually that revelation that has finally robbed this song of its potential greatness.  And I think I must already have realised that this wasn’t everything I had wanted it to be; that’s why I had put it away for so long.  Strong verses and a winning main tune are mugged by a chorus that is too stop-start, repetitive, and clichéd to seal the deal.  And without a killer chorus, how can the magic survive ?  Not even the apposite solo and the bittersweet final, distorting peal of guitar can rescue this from being only ‘good’.

The other half of the double b-side is a live version of ‘Judas My Heart’.  It’s ok, but it’s also a bit ‘so what ?’ as b-sides go.  I feel a bit let down after all that.

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