SIZZLING HOT AMERICAN GRUNGE ROCK
By Robin Mumford Of The Indie Plug
Sizzling hot American grunge rock with a dash of Seattle inspired fuzz-pop built upon the very foundations of mental suffering and ashes of former band members, enthralled by fiery riffs, shout-along choruses and meticulously crafted stories. Alicia Bognanno has shown signs of significant potential in her recent release for ‘Bully’ through the third instalment ‘SUGAREGG’ but whilst some songs reach new heights, there is noticeable rust from her period of reflection away from the music scene.
In an album characterized by Alicia’s Bipolar disorder, there are songs for those who prefer slower more mellow vibes, anthems for those who are in need of an injection of caffeinated aggression and in ‘Hours and Hours’ case, all of the above. It is the slower and more detailed songs in this album that stand out from the rest, the likes of ‘Prism’ for example. The Bully vocalist outlined ‘Prism’ as a “change that needed to happen and it happened on this record”.
She then went on to explain, “Derailing my ego and insecurities allowed me to give these songs the attention they deserved.” The meticulous craft that I mentioned earlier really shines through in this song and the attention to detail is prevalent in the carefully weighted balance of softer vocals and a guitar riff that flows tenderly through the air like a feather that knows no bounds. The facile stream of melodic music shown throughout ‘Prism’ is continued in both ‘You’ and ‘Come Down’, a breath of fresh air in a rocket fuelled release.
‘Prism’ however feels like a latté in a cafe encompassed by double shot espressos and mosh-pitters that are looking for their fresh dose of adrenaline, restricted from social interaction in the summer of 2020. When Alicia Bognanno said “I hope the happy go lucky/fuck-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs because I really did feel like I was reentering a place I hadn’t been to in a while and was excited to be back there” she wasnt lying. The opener ‘Add it on’ epitomises what Bully are all about and is a familiar throwback to fans of the band that love the shout-along choruses Bognanno has become known for. ‘Every Tradition’ follows this theme and is a stark contrast to the highlights of the album that I picked earlier on. Although the tradition of Bully’s shout-along choruses is one that will keep their cult following satisfied, in places the shouting becomes too shouty to the point that the lyrics are drowned out and thus the meaning of the songs are exhausted. Another point of criticism is that some of the shoutalong songs sound similar to that of the rest. Despite this, ‘Where to Start’ is an example of a fast paced song that has all that it takes to be mentioned in the same bracket as Nirvana. Vocals as strong as the melodic vibes in the middle section of ‘SUGAREGG’ alongside the fiery riffs and Bognanno’s powerful attitude paves way for a song that can easily be enjoyed by loyal fans as well as new listeners searching for a taste of everything that Bully stand for.
Speaking of songs that accommodate a wide range of listeners, ‘Hours and Hours’ is a masterpiece that can be loved by anyone. The song starts off with a slow and sinister strum of the guitar accompanied by Alicia’s disquieting lyrics, “you were bleeding out slowly | Choking out the sun.” What then follows is the unexpected switch in temperature from cold to torrid warmth in what can only be described as a twisted tale that perhaps summarises Alicia’s mental suffering the most. Both meaningful and addictive, this song is another that stands out from the rest.
From being a star intern under the supervision of the great Steve Albini to self producing an album that encapsulates her pain and suffering, Alicia Bognanno has showcased her potential and will come back even stronger in the next Bully release. Whilst some songs such as ‘Prism’ and ‘Hours and Hours’ have the quality of any Nirvana release, it was always going to be difficult to maintain such a high quality performance throughout a 12 track album especially after her period of reflection. Fans of Bully will be head over heels with this release and it isn’t difficult to see why but due to sameness in some areas and too much shoutiness in others, the album as a whole does not get top marks. As a new listener of grunge rock, I will be on the lookout for Bully’s next release in hope that the masterpiece quality shown in some songs is continued but in a larger quantity. ***