Tuesday, 17 November 2009

TANYA DONELLY - Lovesongs For Underdogs

Best known as frontwoman for Belly and sometime member of Throwing Muses, this first solo outing by Tanya Donelly is everything you'd expect. Issued on 4AD recfords in 1997, 'Lovesongs For Underdogs' was generally well recieved. Though not a great deprture from previous work with Belly, it could be said it's a little softer around the edges and possibly Donelly's most accesible work - that said, I can't recall ever hearing any songs from the album on radio in the UK and as often the case with 4AD releases, it would never become a multi-million seller.

Of all the Donelly-related releases, this is probably the one I return to most. While most people love Belly's 'Star', I often found it a little empty in places and just too wistful (always preferring 'King', the ballsier sophomore album). I'd say that this solo debut, sound-wise falls somewhere between the two Belly releases, as it has a decent amount of light and shade. 'Bum' wouldn't sound out of place on that second Belly album; neither would the hard, guitar driven 'Lantern', which despite being one of the rockiest things 'LFU' has to offer, still manages to make Donelly's voice sound fragile.

Over a decade later, 'Pretty Deep' remains a brilliant chorus driven piece of alternative pop-rock, which honestly should have reached a much larger audience. While I can't say I ever heard it on UK radio, it featured prominently in an early episode of 'Dawson's Creek', so there's a chance it was more successful in the US (don't be looking for it on the DVD release, though; for contractual reasons, it's been replaced with something forgettable). 'Swoon', as the title suggests, revisits a dreamier sound explored on Belly's 'Star', and it's here that Donelly is in top, very recognisable vocal form. Something rhythmic in 'Clipped' recalls work with Throwing Muses, though a friendly chorus soon sweeps away any darker feelings. 'Both 'Acrobat' and 'Manna' lean heavily towards acoustic arrangements, providing a decent counterpoint to some of the edgier material here.

'Lovesongs For Underdogs' remains probably Tanya Donelly's masterpiece for me, both in terms of accessibility and variety.Should be fairly easy to find as you read this, even if it's not on catalogue everywhere.

May 2008

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