I feel like there should be a phrasebook of overused phrases. The “x is dead” would fill a sizeable section.
God is dead, irony is dead, love is dead, satire is dead, the queen is dead, the king is dead, politics is dead, I’m dead, you’re dead, he’s dead, she’s dead, this phrase is dead, dead, dead, Jim.
The most overused of them all?
Rock is dead.
Overuse aside, I like an addendum to that: classic rock is dead, because grunge killed it.
Since the rise and fall of Kurt Cobain and the grungers from Seattle, classic rock certainly met its end. But where one thing dies, another thing can’t help but rise. Rock is nothing but alternatives now, filled with funky fusions and regularly dusting off callbacks to old styles.
And when its grungy garage rock, I can’t help but headbang with glee.
Enter Bully and their latest release. Punky, garage-y and dirty with them guitars, the world needed an album like Losing. Each track gives shady glances to the sun while staying inside. It’s every bit the loser just as Bully is every bit the punk.
Where does that come from? Well it starts with Alicia Bognanno. Once an intern behind the mixing board for grunge mega-producer Steve Albini, now a bandleader of the best damn grunge band since Nirvana.
Her vocal snarl is a frying pan heating up to a spitsizzle, hacking hot oil loogies at all angles. She’s blasé smoking as she cooks, hollering a howl everytime the cigarette hits her skin and it doesn’t sound like an accident.
To borrow a phrase, “wot’s, uh, the deal,” it’s a Kim Deal-esque effort and it’s all in Bognanno’s punky fairy voicebox. What is this? A meaner, punkier version of the Pixies?
“You’re damn right, sweetcheeks” howls a Bognanno revved up and ready to go-go, “Running” sprints as far away from home as possible.
She’s making sure that head stays up, down, up, down, up and down again with all the velocity of a moshpit hurricane filled to the brim with an unfiltered, unclean guitar-whipping wind and a percussive precipitation pushing its way into the brain, making sure you remember the name, Bully.
And the Nashville based band lives up to the name on their sophomore effort, the riffworks work as a weird cathartic lust for a gutpunch over and over and over again. It’s an addiction to endorphins sprinting up and down the spine and right through the cerebral wall with each riff. It’s all sorts of fucked up and I love it.
And while Boganno’s gale-gust vocal chords cool down, the guitar stays stormy. Clayton Parker ain’t letting up, so you better not too. His fingers are mining the gutter for gold through and through, ain’t nothing you can do. The album is 37 minutes long and it’s 37 minutes of punk guitar paradise in a worn t-shirt and ripped jeans.
That’s a rediscovery of teenage angst for me—listening to angry music as an outlet became an ancient, forgotten ritual. Music doesn’t usually make me angry, the last time music enthralled and enraged me, I was a zit-faced teenage loser.
Metal and I split and went our separate ways after 1982, so grunge is one of the few styles that works with any anger or fury I may have. But then grunge died with a shotgun blast to the face (in my birthyear no less!) and now can sound deadening, like a repeated eulogy.
Pearl Jam and the Pixies are the only survivors, but even then, Pearl Jam wants no part in grunge nowadays, preferring to hide their face in a faceless crowd of alternative-acoustic rock. They stopped pushing buttons in the late 90’s for god’s sake.
So really all we had was the Pixies post-Kim Deal. And I’ll be honest, that ain’t no fun. They’re just as black as Francis in the 90’s, but that ain’t no revelation.
This four-piece punk rock, garage-tone, grunge get-up band in Bully doesn’t have that revelation either. But daaaaaaaaaaaamn do they have that 80’s-turn-90’s decade alternative sound down pat.
While Feels Like may receive credit as the better technical album, bragging backing vocals that you can actually hear and a higher fidelity that Losing can’t match, Feels Like ain’t got jack-diddly-shit on the fact that I am transported to a garage studio in 1989 by this sophomore effort.
I didn’t know it but that’s all I needed, that’s all I wanted and that’s what we got.
Quick Impressions: Move aside Kim Deal, we have a new garage darling in town. Grunge, punk and alternative headbangers abound, Alicia Bognanno and Bully are coming to punch some teeth out with 37 minutes of knuckle-sandwich-filled flurries. I hope you’re ready.
Producer: Alicia Bognanno
- “Feels the Same”
- “Kills to Be Resistant”
- “Seeing It”
- “Guess There”
- “Not the Way”
- “Either Way”
- “You Could Be Wrong”
- “Hate and Control”