In Appreciation Of.....Jellyfish, Bellybutton

In Appreciation Of.....Jellyfish, Bellybutton

What a sucker I am for this band, this album.....and the memory of a girl who introduced this album to me.

In 1992, a college girlfriend put on a cassette in her red Mazda 626 (I think she named her car "Irv"....not sure how I remember this) on a ride around Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama

I was immediate seized by the pure pop joy of it's music combined with the subtle (and not-so-subtle) harmonies of the Beach Boys and the over-dubbed harmonies of Queen merged with Beatles-inspired psychadelia that hit any listener out of the blue, much less in the early 1990s where grunge was taking hold alongside the jam-band revival. Oh yeah, and the girl playing it was singing along and very cute to this 19 year old boy.

Several years later, I would still bring this album up, in a desperate attempt for conversation when I ran into this college love.  Their two classic albums followed by a sudden breakup and splintered music career was always an excuse to talk about something.....I never remembered The Grays (excellent album) she shared and their other post-Jellyfish projects after a nervous conversation.  I was happy I was able to think of words at all through my nerves. 

Buy Jellyfish, Bellybutton Here

Despite the good memories of the joyful music, the final track of side one, "She Still Loves Him" was the college girlfiend's favorite track, playing that one more than the others.  Strangely I didn't find this suspicious. 

Soon after, I found myself single and she returned to her previous boyfriend (shocking!).  An ominous sign that my naive college self took hard at the time, but today I listen with a smirk, knowing I missed an obvious sign and a lesson learned....but a great song is stil a great song - and turned up 30 years later, so what could I do otherwise when this magnificent band comes on?

The internet allowed for me to eventually find out that The Lickerish Quartet reunited just a few years ago (Jellyfish minus Jason Faulkner) to release a few EPs.  Excellent though those EPs are, they are still not Jellyfish and didn't catch a brief zietgeist of fame that fans loyally remember today.

Their debut album sits along The Stone Roses debut album as a "of it's time" treasure.  With a widespread release of Bellybutton on vinyl for the first time, I had to have mutiple copies on hand at Side A Vinyl and wanted to share the story.

Rediscovering the Magic of Jellyfish's Bellybutton

In the vibrant tapestry of early 90s rock, where grunge was beginning its meteoric rise, a band named Jellyfish emerged with a sound that was refreshingly distinct. Their debut album, Bellybutton, released in 1990, was a brilliant concoction of power pop, lush harmonies, and intricate arrangements. Though not a massive commercial success at the time, Bellybutton has since garnered a cult following and is celebrated for its meticulous craftsmanship and timeless appeal.

Jellyfish (2) : Bellybutton (LP, Album, Ltd, RE, 180)

A Sonic Kaleidoscope

From the opening notes of “The Man I Used to Be,” it's clear that Bellybutton is no ordinary album. The track starts with a gentle piano that gradually builds into a lush orchestral arrangement, setting the stage for an album that is both musically adventurous and emotionally resonant. The influences of The Beatles, Queen, and The Beach Boys are evident, yet Jellyfish managed to synthesize these inspirations into something uniquely their own.

Standout Tracks

  • “That Is Why”: With its soaring harmonies and catchy chorus, this track is a perfect example of Jellyfish's ability to blend pop sensibilities with complex musicality. The lyrics, tinged with melancholy and introspection, add a layer of depth to the infectious melody.

  • “The King Is Half-Undressed”: Arguably the most famous song from Bellybutton, this track features a driving beat, jangly guitars, and a sing-along chorus that makes it an instant earworm. The music video, with its vibrant colors and whimsical imagery, perfectly captures the band's aesthetic.

  • “I Wanna Stay Home”: This ballad showcases the band's softer side, with heartfelt lyrics and a melody that evokes a sense of longing and nostalgia. It's a beautiful counterpoint to the more upbeat tracks on the album, highlighting Jellyfish's versatility.

  • “Now She Knows She's Wrong”: A punchy, guitar-driven track with a hint of 70s glam rock, this song is a testament to the band's ability to craft memorable hooks and dynamic arrangements. The energy and passion in the performance are palpable, making it a standout moment on the album.

  • "Baby's Coming Back".  The third single from Bellybutton is a sugary-pop song that just gets the toes tapping.

    Musical Brilliance

    What sets Bellybutton apart from many of its contemporaries is the sheer musical talent on display. Roger Manning's keyboard work is both intricate and expressive, providing a rich textural backdrop for the songs. Andy Sturmer's drumming is precise and powerful, driving the rhythm forward with an infectious energy. Their vocals, often layered in complex harmonies, are a highlight of the album, adding a lush, almost symphonic quality to the music.

    Production and Legacy

    The production on Bellybutton is nothing short of stellar. Produced by Albhy Galuten and Jack Joseph Puig, the album features a clean, polished sound that allows the intricacies of the arrangements to shine through. Every instrument is meticulously placed in the mix, creating a sonic landscape that is both immersive and detailed.

    Though Jellyfish disbanded after just two albums, their influence can still be heard in the music of artists who appreciate the art of songwriting and the beauty of melody. Bands like OK Go, Ben Folds Five, and even aspects of Weezer’s more melodic work owe a debt to the pioneering sound of Jellyfish.


    Bellybutton is more than just an album; it's a journey through a kaleidoscope of sounds and emotions. Its blend of pop, rock, and baroque elements, combined with heartfelt lyrics and masterful musicianship, makes it a timeless piece of art. Whether you're a longtime fan or a newcomer to Jellyfish's music, Bellybutton offers a rich and rewarding listening experience that continues to captivate and inspire. So, take a moment to dive into this musical gem and rediscover the magic of Jellyfish.

    Then came their second, and final, album: Spilt Milk, but that's for another post.  If you remember, here's the first single:

    The Ghost of #1


    Back to blog

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.