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Articles Home » 1990 Articles » Jellyfish - 1990 Bellybutton
Jellyfish - 1990 Bellybutton

ARTIST: Jellyfish
ALBUM: Bellybutton
LABEL: Charisma
SERIAL: 2-91400
YEAR: 1990
CD REISSUE: 2012, Omnivore, OVLP-5 (Coloured Vinyl)


LINEUP: Andy Sturmer - vocals, drums, keyboards, guitar * Roger Manning - keyboards, vocals * Jason Falkner - guitars, bass, vocals * Chris Manning - bass, vocals (live only)

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Man I Used to Be * 02 That Is Why * 03 The King Is Half-Undressed * 04 I Wanna Stay Home * 05 She Still Loves Him * 06 All I Want Is Everything * 07 Now She Knows She's Wrong * 08 Bedspring Kiss * 09 Baby's Coming Back * 10 Calling Sarah


Simply put. 'Bellybutton' may be one of the greatest releases in the past 20 years, that sadly few in the rock world will ever hear, but those who know can't deny it's unforgettable songs. Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning Jr. formed Jellyfish after the break-up of their previous band, Beatnik Beatch. The San Francisco based band became complete when guitarist Jason Falkner contributed to the demos and eventually joined for the recording of this debut. Falkner had written and performed on The Three O'Clocks major-label debut, 'Vermillion'. Why this didn't become a double platinum seller is simple. It was marketed to the wrong audience; oblivious MTV witless alt rockers who were listening to INXS instead of Cheap Trick. More hooks than a tackle box here, this is up there with Cheap Trick's debut and even Beach Boys best. Not just the a 'power pop' classic, it's a rock and roll masterpiece!

The Songs
All of the songs are winners. They all showcase the impressive talents of this now-gone band. Each track is in drenched in harmony and are based on human conditions and emotions - heartbreak, shame, loss and longing. The musicianship is outstanding. Musically drawing heavily from the best of the melodic heap; The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Queen, Cheap Trick, and ELO. 'The Man I Used To Be' kicks things off on a somber note but it's melody and lyrics are undeniably brilliant. 'The King Is Half-Undressed' contains some unique lyrical twists which makes it as a left-field pop classic. 'I Wanna Stay Home' is an endearing ballad with a gorgeous melody and one of the best hooks around. 'All I Want Is Everything' is the closest to 'power' pop for its more rocking guitars, but with some psychedelic touches as the song progresses. 'Now She Knows She's Wrong' is good but probably the closest to the modern rock radio schlock that was going on at the time. On the other hand, 'Baby's Coming Back' is 3 minutes of perfection. The album's closer 'Calling Sarah' is a personal fav and it's arrangements are not far off of the great George Martin. Overall you can't go wrong here.

In Summary
'Bellybutton' contained the band's biggest hit, 'Baby's Coming Back', which peaked at No. 62 on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart. The album also included the singles 'That Is Why', 'I Wanna Stay Home', 'Now She Knows She's Wrong' and 'The King Is Half-Undressed' (the video for which was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award). Falkner left the band after the 'Bellybutton' tour. Sturmer and Manning Jr. recruited a handful of studio musicians to help record their 1993 album, 'Spilt Milk'. 'Milk' is actually just as good as 'Bellybutton', incorporating a 'Pet Sounds'-ish feel with it's vast array of overdubbing and instruments. Sadly increasing creative differences between Sturmer and Manning resulted in Jellyfish's demise. Manning would later work with Jellyfish live band member Eric Dover for Imperial Drag. In 2005, Manning Jr. released his first solo CD 'Solid State Warrior' in Japan only, but was later resequenced with different songs and released as 'The Land Of Pure Imagination' in the States. Although Roger Manning Jr. and Jason Falkner have recently reunited in a new-wave-ish band called TV Eyes, the group lacks the spirit and feel of Jellyfish. While a full fledged reunion is highly unlikely because of the member's eccentricities, at least they left us with some incredible sounds. The real travesty is 'Bellybutton' not being an essential part of your collection!

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#1 | Eric on April 08 2008 21:42:26
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. One of my favourite albums (and band's) of all time although I think 'Spilt Milk' still has the edge, but who cares?! Tremendous, infectious pop music that we will still be talking about 20 years from now.
Thumbs Upin lovemusic
#2 | jeffduran on April 09 2008 02:56:51
We will indeed! 'Spilt Milk' includes my two favorite Jellyfish songs 'New Mistake' and 'Ghost At No. 1'...
#3 | rostoned on April 09 2008 12:53:23
fantastic review Jeff, well done! this makes me want to move my lazy and hairy ass, grab again my copy of this CD and listen to it again. Those bastards knew how to write great songs, didn't they? Now I am waiting for your book on obscurities..... wait
#4 | vinyldinosaurus on April 09 2008 13:45:50
Great album. I have two copies on vinyl! Imperial Drag were great too. I was lucky enough to catch an ID live show during their brief existence.
#5 | Nick C on April 09 2008 13:52:36
'The real travesty is 'Bellybutton' not being an essential part of your collection!'

I'm shocked ... but it IS an essential part of my collection. Grin I think Spilt Milk has the edge for me but...just how do you choose between them?? It's a pity they split up so soon I'm off to nestle up to my Fan Club box to console myself.... sob!
#6 | jeffrey343 on April 09 2008 21:31:33
This album, as well as 'Spilt Milk', are available on Rhapsody (surprise). Both albums are available as partial albums on iTunes. So, I was able to give them a listen. I can't say that I liked them nearly as much as everyone who has commented here. Just not really my style, I guess...
#7 | jefflynnefan on April 13 2008 04:04:01
Well, I guess I can't add much here but only to say both cd's mentioned on worth getting.
#8 | trillion1999 on October 22 2011 17:07:01
I would love to hear everything by all the guys involved in Jellyfish.I did not dare buy Beatnik Beatch when I saw it in a record-store though.On the other hand it was one of the unfriendliest most snobbish places I ever had the misfortune to visit so maybe that was why.I always seen them as the It Bites of Power Pop and It Bites as the Jellyfish of prog so sue me.Both groups equally talented and fab IMHO.
#9 | Explorer on June 08 2012 22:16:28
Spilt Milk is one of the greatest albums ever made...period
#10 | Explorer on May 21 2015 12:50:24
A quick heads up...both "Bellybutton" and "Spilt Milk" are now out again thru` Omnivore as deluxe double Cd`s and mighty fine they are too, and what with the recent debate around the sound of various CD`s these sound bloody awesome!
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