The early 90s were an unexpectedly fertile time for power-pop. The Posies blended harmonies and overloaded guitars with dreams of joining Big Star, Matthew Sweet proved it was possible to be a power-pop solo artist, Del Amitri were a little more rock, but were more than welcome to sit at the table, Crowded House were a little more lyrically achieved and were the big international success and Teenage Fanclub were of the same ilk as The Posies, but Scottish. In many ways Jellyfish were perhaps the poor-relations in all of this, as they enjoyed neither the sales nor the critical acclaim at the time, despite the fact that they were perhaps the most pop-orientated of all of them.
Of their two original studio albums, Bellybutton is the superior, perfecting the blend of studio nous, super-charged guitars, big choruses and irresistible harmonies. Perhaps there is a little too much perceived japery going on, what with the flamboyant costumes and silly album title, but when you sit down and listen closely, this is actually a solid album full of intelligent observations and a mature outlook on life.
Perhaps the reason for Jellyfish’s failure to make much of an impact is that they arrived on the music scene at the very moment that grunge was about to make its assault on the mainstream. There was no place for harmonies, obvious Beatles references and (gasp!) pianos in grunge (at least that was the perception of the popular music press), so Jellyfish just got swept away under the wave of a sub-genre that they could never hope to be a part of.
It’s a shame that Jellyfish never really got the opportunity to prove their worth at the time, because on the strength of songs like “The King Is Half-Undressed”, “All I Want Is Everything”, “Now She Knows She’s Wrong” and “Baby’s Coming Back”, they should have been major contenders.
As it happens the copy of Bellybutton in my collection features five live tracks which include covers of Wings and Badfinger material. That figures.