200 Lucky Feet Move the Dragon
The fact that this foursome's bio lists more than 30 artists they 'sound similar to' (most of which are huge favorites of mine, too) shows they have impeccable taste. But they needn't have bothered, because they really don't sound like anybody else. Not that their music is overtly ground breaking or unfamiliar. It boasts a huge, layered modern rock sound that is at once radio-friendly and exciting, with loads of exquisite touches, too. But their secret weapon is the presence of three absolutely fantastic vocalists, especially Neco Case-like leader Sandra Mello (Melody Baldwin and Brian Mello, who contribute occasional leads, are equally marvelous). it's the combination of fervently-played music and towering, big-payoff choruses that jump from the speakers on every song that makes this superb album unique. That they built their own studio to record this, after two self-released LP's (must find them!), shows they are ambitious and passionate, too. (And politically astute: check out 'Crisis of Faith', a not-so-subtle condemnation of Bush's Iraq policies!) - Mark Suppanz | Big Takeover Magazine [issue 58] | April 2006 ........ From San Francisco's Bay Area, THE BELLYACHERS come bearing a DIY attitude (self-financed operation, book their own tours, design their own artwork and merchandise; their website came in as a finalist in the SXSW web awards) that would normally be associated with straight-edge hardcore punk outfits such as Fugazi. However, if you're consequently expecting their third album '2OO Lucky Feet Move The Dragon' to be some rushed-out, recorded in 24 hours statement of punk authenticity then you'll quickly be thinking again, because there's nothing remotely hurried or corner-cutting about the standard that's maintained during the course of this excellent, quality-first rock/ pop album. The Bellyachers are a two girls and two guys outfit featuring Sandra Mello (bass, vocals), Melody Baldwin (guitar, vocals), Brian Mello (guitars, vocals) and drummer Peter Craft. This album is their third - after 2000's 'Bottoms Up' and 2002's 'Heavy In My Hands' - and suggests that some back catalogue backtracking activity is immediately required. Opener 'Fool's Game' suggests we may well be in for a treat. Fading in on backwards strings and angel wings it's then set up by strident piano and Sandra and Melody harmonising with sweetness and edge. The whole band fall in to fine effect and by the time the song finally gives up the ghost we've been treated to a couple of quicksilver guitar solos and a hugely dramatic end coda. Not a bad start by anyone's standards. Brilliantly, this is merely the beginning of something fantastic too. Songs like 'Forever Changed' carry a lingering whiff of Americana in general and Chris Isaak in terms of the twangy, baritone guitar, while Sandra Mello's vocals are dreamy and commanding and carry a hint of Emmylou Harris; 'Walking Time' demonstrates they can pull off a dark, wistful ballad every bit as effectively and 'Heaven Is Blue' goes from dusty and semi-acoustic by way of a few Bowie-style electronic elements through to a full-on anthemic blow-up of a chorus. All of these - plus Melody Baldwin's stark portrait of a couple papering over the cracks of a disintegrating relationship on 'We Don't Talk' - showcase a band in supremely confident form, but naturally they don't forget to rock either. 'Halfway Around The World', for example, is gripping, chromatic pop with heady harmonies and some welcome, Big Star-style power pop oomph; the tense 'Crisis Of Faith' features a descriptive Brian Mello vocal and feels distinctly reminiscent of X and 'It's My Turn' finds rasping guitar riffs trading with sympathetic strings as well as setting up a great backdrop for some super-descriptive Sandra and Melody vocals. Arguably, though, they save the very best for last with 'Swan Dive': a stealthy, jazzy creep adorned by David Phillips' pedal steel and a dreamy, neo old-time feel. It's kissed by beautiful harmonies and serves as a great way to waltz us into The Bellyachers hearts' in the same yearning romantic way Chris Mills did with 'Signal/ Noise' on his still-wonderful 'Kiss It Goodbye' album. But regardless of any number of fleeting reference points, The Bellyachers engage you with a presence and charisma that is theirs and theirs alone throughout the course of the excellent '200 Lucky Feet Move The Dragon'. Indeed, apres-listen, the only two questions that remain to niggle this writer are : 1) Why the hell aren't these guys fighting off record companies brandishing large chequebooks? and 2) What on Earth is that album title about? The rest is more than satisfying to these ears. - Tim Peacock | Whisperin & Hollerin | January 13, 2006 ........ Nothing in the San Fran-based Bellyachers' early discography quite prepares us for the resplendent beauty of this album, and it's centerpiece song 'Heaven Is Blue.' Sterling walls of harmonies, sparkling guitar runs, and Sandra Mello's divine vocal guide this otherworldly track from hushed lullaby to exploding, celestial coda in the space of six minutes - Pop Culture Press [issue 62] | Spring/Summer 2006.