National Music Reviews
Sub Pop Records
Bully = Nirvana + Summer Cannibals
Amid this pandemic, Bully releases their third studio album, SUGAREGG. Band leader and engineer Alicia Bognanno births a record of relatable rawness, ranging from post-grunge to alternative sounds. By completely reworking her regular production process, Bognanno reveals a mental, emotional and musical expansion more than ever before. It’s a sonic attempt to reconnect with oneself by examining the past, how it reflects the present and how it will affect the future.
The first introduction to this album’s release is with the single “Where to Start.” This progressive ditty sets the lyrical tone for the rest of the record by talking about a dysfunctional love story in an upbeat manner. This continues in “Let You” and “Hours and Hours,” where the bass holds the reins throughout the songs with alternating layers of refrained instrumental verses and bursts of feedback-heavy choruses. All circulating around three minutes, these garage-ridden songs are refreshing, with Bognanno’s rasp unpacking some existential truths.
The following single, “Every Tradition,” displays an array of emotions with dramatic vocal switches between aggressive growls and vulnerable falsetto. It debates social normalcies by posing the question, “What do you do when you don’t fit within the traditions of gender?” The answer seems to be in the proto-punk-hitting tune, “Not Ashamed.” Bognanno’s snarls never let up against a pounding drumbeat, reaching a necessary magnitude to blow away the unwavering stigma behind personal shame.
“Add It On” initiates the record, setting the energy bar high with distorted rhythm guitar as Bognanno roars frustrations about the day-to-day bullshit. The alt-rock-leaning beat that pulsates throughout the song draws a familiarity to the band’s previous angsty regimen while also pushing past the original mold. Within that same sonic vein is “You,” having the most honest and relatable chorus: “I can’t figure it out / I’m still just a kid on my way down.” Especially during a stay-at-home order, this feeling of fleeting joy and memories resonates on a larger scale.
A new side of Bully is exposed as Bognanno reduces the pace in the almost-pop song “Prism.” Cooing vocals are brought to the forefront along with a solemn, fuzzy bass and a softer strumming guitar. “The sun hits a prism / Your ghost in my kitchen,” Bognanno sings in the explosive chorus, seemingly haunted by something that once was and can never be again. A similar mood is accessed in “Come Down,” possibly the calmest and most singer-songwriter-esque ballad in Bully’s repertoire with its slow beating drums and gentle levels of harmonious vocals.
SUGAREGG is a quarantine-released delight that assists in hindsight over this crazy year. In a time with so much uncertainty, it is important to turn inward and reflect on what is going on inside ourselves. This album is an example of what is possible when you set the ego aside and self-reflect with no filter. This unabridged rock record releases an energy that I cannot wait to see in its full glory, live on stage. One day, hopefully soon, we will have the chance to witness it. –Kenz Waldon