Crashing into Feels Like by Nashville grunge band Bully feels like standing in a dive bar, smashing back tinnies, empowering yourself and having the best fucking time of your life. As a high-energy assault, Bully’s debut album is something to be revered and celebrated.
Kick-started by the short punk punch “I Remember”, we are served up basic but driving drum beats, simple heavy rock guitar lines and the raspy vocals of Alicia Bognanno shouting ‘I remember getting too fucked up and I remember throwing up in your car’ followed up by ‘I remember hurting you so bad and I remember the way your sheets smelt’. The aggression of crushing.
The juxtaposition of abrasive, overdriven punk/grunge and the borderline romanticised lyrical content laden in Bully’s sound is an aspect that has paved the way to their huge successes in 2015.
On New Year’s Day of this year, I listened to a playlist on NME featuring ‘Bands To Watch in 2015’ and Bully’s snap-crashing “Milkman” was on it. This song was also the only song that I remember from that list and it was primarily due to Bognanno’s empowering, gruff and 90s throwback Riot Grrl vocal style.
With guitar hooks reminiscent of The Breeders, overdriven bass lines that seem influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and those moments when Gwen Stefani was belting out gruff vocals in No Doubt’s alt-rock periods, Bully’s appropriations perfectly seep in and meld into one another effortlessly.
Like last week’s review of Leon Bridges Coming Home, we have the pleasure of witnessing another band doing a historical genre traditionally and successfully. And as ‘Don’t you wanna be a part of something bigger?’ rings out in the Californian-skate punk song “Reason”, we agree and place our faith in Bully.
The musical compositions of the songs on Feels Like are relatively the same as they follow the fairly simplistic and ‘no-frills’ grunge formula however it is clearly Bognanno’s vocals that can switch instantly from teenage dream sweetness to a riotous scream that gives Bully the edge of adapting sweet experiences with crunches at just the right moments.
This can be heard in the struggle-anthem “Trying”, a song that kind of feels like the American-girl version of Courtney Barnett’s “Small Poppies” (non-surprisingly Bognanno is a huge Barnett fan). Applicable to all with music that sounds like it grew from places that build our adolescence and sense of self (the suburbs, school yards and the garage of a mate’s houses), like Barnett, Bognanno is the people’s people.
What we don’t hear on Feels Like are the songs of heartache that are almost expected from any female fronted bands (see Paramore). That there is a lack of this is actually refreshing and is an aspect that is most notably apparent in the song “Trash” where the verses that could remotely resonate with heartache are pushed away throw a barrage of fuck-you screaming in the choruses.
Catchy tracks like “Six” and “Brainfreeze” add more layers to the unassuming talent of ‘less is more’ that few bands seem to nail, but Bully have got it. Rounding off with final track “Bully”, it becomes etched into the musical history of 2015 that this is a band that have their sound solidified. Whilst exploration is key to artistry, it’s also a good start to know what you are as a band and it seems with Bully that this is no compromise. They are here with an album that we seem to have been subliminally praying for.
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Latest Release: Feels Like (StarTime International)
Sounds Like: Hole, The Breeders, Parquet Courts
Say What? Alicia Bogbanno interned as a sound engineer at Electrical Audio, the place where Nirvana’s In Utero was recorded. This is a girl that knows her shit.
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