Bully: Losing

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen (Sub Pop)

Bully go beyond the surface to make the ground quake with their candid grunge.

Losing is just another day for Bully, continuing the same format of candid therapy featured in their debut Feels Like. Though the Nashville-based band does not alter their style, their sardonic approach to life -- as demonstrated by their chaotic instrumentation and sharp lyrics -- never fails to leave an impression. Whether it is a guy being ranted about, a friend needing protecting, or a passerby, Alicia Bognanno's lyrics are about things under the sun that get beneath her skin. It is this band's candidness that makes them endearing. They do make vague love songs here and there, yet the group makes an effort to go beyond the surface and make the ground quake.



(Sub Pop)

Release Date: 20 Oct 2017

Bully are in the middle of a spectrum where Hole take the extreme end, and No Doubt take a reserved approach. The grunge path the band takes features very mellow sections that are sedated, while also incorporating manic worry in the form of shouting. They are more so Nirvana in comparison to Bully's modern counterpart Dilly Dally. Comparisons aside, Bully craft a sound that is refined and comfortable for the group to perform. The formula of talking about an uneventful day can be stale in the future, but at present is a welcome feature. One might not groove to their songs, yet that is not the purpose of their upbeat material: they instead want their audience to feel life's discomfort with them.

Losing is an apt title for this discomfort. The sensation of losing control, losing games in life, losing objects; everything about the concept of losing feels subconsciously explored within Bognanno's lyrics. The instrumentation hardly lacks focus, with the bass of Reece Lazarus being a very valuable asset to the team. Though there are seldom riffs to hang on to, each string and drum hit is cathartic within itself. Audiences feel one with the band's pain. It is gritty, destructive, and is something one should not play around with -- yet one does because that is grunge rebellion.

There are several aspects to Losing that always stick out with each listen. "Seeing It" alter the fabric of the grunge band's sound with the incorporation of doom style guitars. This fusion cements the thought that Bully have tricks under their sleeves. It is a sneak peek of a sound that can give them more variety in the future. "Guess There" also leaves a mark, positing distortion as a migraine, rather than plain noise.

"Focused" is the pinnacle of the record. It illustrates the group as one that travels along the grunge spectrum, harboring feelings of anger and restraint. The bass is the back-and-forth pacing of one in thought; the drum is the thump of a heart. The powder keg eventually explodes, and the pacing stops to unload the line with the most weight: "I'm gonna kill him!"

It is not the threat that merely gets the listener: it is the sensation that Bognanno's friends are physically pulling her back from the kill. She is losing, and while she cannot necessarily win, she wants to take something down with her. It flattens the rage found in "Hate and Control" while simultaneously explains "Kills to be Resistant".

The band might not have developed their sound, but they have made their feelings more explicit. Although there is bubbling rage to the group, there is still a comfort they bring to their listeners. The variation of vocals and instrumentation from high to low show a dynamic that is not easily attainable. When Bognanno says "I'll admit it / I get anxious, too", it's clear that there is a lover underneath the hard shell. Bully wants to protect someone -- however ironic that sounds -- from losing. In that regard, they are victorious.


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