David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 150: Belly (Suffer The Fools)

May 31, 2022

This one goes out to some fools I have known for a long time.  This is that song I have been trying to get you to listen to.

Two albums into the early 1990s and Belly, led by the incomparable Tanya Donelly, should have been destined for a decent, if not spectacular, career. "Feed The Tree" and "Gepetto," from their debut album Star, were mainstays on college radio stations. Based upon incredibly well-crafted songs buttressed by fantastic musicianship, and mysterious, yet, confident lyrics: "and if you bore him/you'll lose your soul to him" ("Gepetto"), or, "you know the shape my breath will take before I let it out" (from King's "Now They'll Sleep"), I was convinced Belly and I would be living together for a long time.

It didn't happen. Donelly struck out on a solo career as varied and breath-taking as anything Belly had done. 23 years later, the band reformed for a single record, Dove, so removed from their dazzling first two albums that a Google search for Belly as related to music will get you pages about a rapper, not this worthy quartet.

Right in the middle of Dove is "Suffer The Fools," one of many songs that speak directly to a lot of us who have suffered through two and a half decades of life since 1995's King. "Suffer The Fools," especially, challenges us to assess the people in our lives, the ones who "keep pissing [us] off" because we thought they would know us better, as well as the ones whose indifference aren't worthy of our time.

The song alternates between dramatic flourish and soft intimacy. The pair of harshly strummed guitar chords and drum strikes that open the song sound like a front and screen door slammed shut as lover/friend/confidante leaves in a huff. Quickly, however, the song falls into supple guitar embracing Donelly's lovely voice listing the sorting out of who gets what in the settlement:

"You keep my key and my lazy letters/I'll keep the angel that you bought to watch over me/I know you thought that we'd be living together/I thought so too."

The intention to be mature through this break-up stays true through these understated opening stanzas, save the bitterness which with Donelly enunciates "pissing me off": "Just keep it up/keep on pissing me off/you know I'd rather suffer you/than suffer the fools."

If "Gepetto" or "Feed The Tree" confounded me, as they seemed to say something about relationships that went way over my head while their nuances worked deep into my heart, "Suffer The Fools" comes across as clear a sermon as we can get. Remain committed to something built together, so much so that we will bring over "the terrible wine that you love" or "the book that I've been trying to get you to read." After all, "that's what we do."

As the song evolves, this tender undercurrent, the emotional connection we make with each other, soars with delicate strings, piano, and Donelly's and Gail Greenwood's spine-tingling vocals. However, for the long fade-out, the door slamming of the opening becomes the recurring motif, almost as if a reminder of the never-ending way we stay connected despite the frustrations of never being exactly what the other wants.

I can't decide if this is the perfect song to encapsulate a relationship or to encapsulate the way artists speak to us.  I only know I'd rather suffer Belly and you than the fools.

Belly. "Suffer The Fools." Dove. The Orchard. 2018.  Link here.

Day 149: Queen "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

Day 151: The Godfathers "Love Is Dead"

See complete list here.