Slow Dust
(4AD 2009)

Belly is one of my favorite groups of the 90s, a band that seemed much bigger at the time than they actually were, probably because I was in college then and one's musical perspective is all out of order while in college. I bought everything I could get my hands on by them, except for bootlegs, because they sucked live.

The Slow Dust EP was the only Belly release I never bought, because three of the four tracks appeared on Star, and I couldn't justify paying nine bucks for the sole remaining track. Flash-forward seven years, and I run across it at Amoeba Records in San Francisco for like three bucks. I figure, what the hell, might as well complete the collection.

Turns out this EP is all pre-Star recordings, so although some songs are duplicated on that album, these are all different versions, much rawer and barely above demo-caliber. That was a pleasant surprise, and even more pleasantly surprising is that I find the songs virtually as exciting as I did then – not something I can say for most of my early '90s pet bands (I'm not sitting around listening to Sugar, for example).

"Dusted" and "Low Red Moon" were never my favorites from the Tanya Donelly canon, but these are good versions, a bit roughshod but that serves them well. "Slow Dog" is a great song, very poppy, and it's interesting to hear a far less polished version than the one that ended up on the album.

As far as I can tell, this EP marks the first recordings of Belly, a fact that escaped me at the time. I wish I'd been into the Internet back then, I would have realized earlier on that this was an interesting disc.

Also, I should have been buying up domain names like "," "," and "" The money I could have potentially made selling those off now would surely have dwarfed the six bucks I saved by waiting seven years to buy this CD.

I wouldn't say this is essential listening by any means, but Tanya Donelly fans will enjoy it, and certainly if you stumble across it for a few smackers, pick it up. There's a hidden bonus version of "Dusted" that's really cool – totally different arrangement and quite creepy. Worth discovering, though not worth more than, say, five bucks max.

Truly, 4AD should release a Belly rarities/b-sides disc and just compile all the uncollected tracks into one place. I fear that interest will gradually wane in Belly (as though it already hasn't) to the point where no one even cares. But they were a great band while they lasted.

Tanya Donelly's work is always interesting, though it's become far less frequently bestowed. Sure, I realize that the next generation will smirk at me for saying "Man, now Belly – there was a great band" much the same way I smirk at people slightly older than myself who love Lone Justice and The Cult. It's all part of the great music criticism food chain I suppose.

Review by Monster Rancher