In 2014, Bully, the project fronted by Alicia Bognanno, were voted Nashville’s Best Band, giving the “Nashville Sound” a different dynamic. Forget about country or Americana, Bully’s full-throttle grunge brought the noise, attitude, and brutally honest lyricism to Music City. Their excellent debut album, Feels Like, followed a year after and rekindled the angst and grit recalled in the songs of Hole, Nirvana, and Garbage. For the encore, Bully recapture the spirit and energy of the early ’90s with a record that is both a personal account and a political statement, and it’s awesome.
Losing is a 12-song, 37-minute monster. Coming in just under 2 minutes, Bully unfurl a tsunami of explosive garage-rock with the opener, “Feel the Same”. Bognanno’s urgent and piercing vocals return, as she honestly espouses how she has become numbed to the fake world around her. The propulsive grunge rock continues with “Kills to Be Resistant”. Bognanno and her bandmates Clayton Parker and Reece Lazarus gradually build the intensity and drama, heightening anticipation and excitement with each whirling guitar riff and pummeling drum line. In the meantime, Bognanno’s screeching vocals and her story of trying not to succumb to an ex again reel you in. And just when she’s about to fall, she and the rest of the band start to rage. The song gets gnarly, edgy, and fierce. It’s not so much Bognanno screaming at her ex but calling on herself to wake up.
With “Running”, Bully strip things back ever so slightly. Absent is the wall-shaking fury and ferocity of the first two numbers; in its place is a more subtle, soul-shaking intensity. Angst still burns in Bognanno’s words while the instruments wail with aggression. The rage, however, is quieter to complement the song’s focus on experiencing a mid-life crisis and dealing with the emotions that come with it. A similar approach is adopted on “Seeing It” and “Guess There”, two songs about moving on from an uneasy past.
Bognanno’s songwriting reaches new levels on “Blame” and “Focused”, which are two of the albums more “subdued” songs. Through the swagger of the Chicago indie-rock scene of the ’90s, Bognanno assigns blame to everyone, including herself, for the chaos that lingers in her mind. The latter, though, is Bognanno’s masterpiece and most devastating number. As the instrumentation simmers below the surface she describes the suffering and abuse of a friend and recounts her own experience. Fury is then unleashed as the song roars and Bognanno hollers:
“Calling you a bad friend
Did he do it again?
I’m going to kill him!
I’m trying to stay focused!”
Bully return to their rocking ways on the next four tracks, beginning with the whirling “Not the Way” and finishing with the smooth rocker, “You Could Be Wrong”. The latter is a brilliant take on how fantasy has overtaken reality for many people. The album’s finale, “Hate and Control”, though, is a melodic cleanser. Bully turn down the volume to allow Bognanno deliver a song that blurs between the political and personal. Whether her aim is an ex or the current occupant of the White House, she politely asks, “Can’t we exist without your hate and control?” With the current state of the world, it’s a question we’ll likely be asking for a while. Fortunately, Bully have delivered a record perfect for the times – and one we can continue to return to when we’re feeling the need to scream and find a release from today’s uncertainty.
The band consists of Alicia Bognanno, Clayton Parker, and Reece Lazarus. Bully head out on a massive tour beginning in November that extends well into 2018. Find dates and information here.
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