Jellyfish were formed by the songwriting partnership Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer, after their previous band Beatnik Beatch didn’t allow them to contribute songs. Their 1990 debut, Bellybutton, synthesises influences like XTC, The Beatles, and Cheap Trick into an enjoyable blend of lush, harmonised power pop. Manning and Sturmer were joined on Bellybutton by guitarist Jason Falker, who left before its followup, as Manning and Sturmer didn’t allow him to contribute songs.
It’s the more stripped down songs on Bellybutton that make the strongest impression; ‘I Wanna Stay Home’ is pretty and poignant, while ‘Baby’s Coming Back’ bounces along like a 1960’s bubblegum pop single. Songs like ‘Now She Knows She’s Wrong’ and ‘That Is Why’ showcase the band’s detailed harmony arrangements.
Bellybutton is good in its own right, but it also feels like a dry run for 1993’s more expansive and more impressive Spilt Milk.