Bands better and worse than Belly or Radiohead have found themselves in the enviable but still problematic situation of having a reputation and a no little success based on one fluky single. For Belly that single is “Feed the Tree,” an outlandishly confectionary rock concoction that soars and sings. The group is the solo turn of Tanya Donelly, who did time in both Throwing Muses and the Breeders, where whe was overshadowed by Kristin Hersh and Kim Deal, respectively, for her trouble. “Feed the Tree” is her revenge. The precise lyrical cosmology of that song–and indeed, most others on the album–I find a bit hard to discern, but it’s safe to say that Donelly has a somewhat weird relationship to her surroundings. On the rest of Star she plays around with song settings ranging from airy, fairly 60s stuff to relatively respectable 90s modern-rock stylings, without re-creating the magic of her single. Radiohead’s “Creep” is a mope-rock anthem brought alive by what turns out to have been an accidentally hit-upon prechorus scratch-a-scratch guitar burst; that and singer Thom Yorke’s scenery chewing (dig the tip o’ the hat to “The Air That I Breathe”) puts the song into pop-radio nirvana. The rest of their debut, Pablo Honey, relies on crashy guitars and tuneful, somewhat overdramatic homages to some of their frothy forebears, from the Hollies to the Raspberries. But they’ve got a sense of humor (“Anyone Can Play Guitar”) and hey–what’s wrong with crashy guitars, tunefullness, and overdramitization? Most bands need stuff like that. Note the early starting time. Friday, 6 PM, Riviera, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Paul Natkin-Photo Reserve, Tom Sheehan.