Bully – ‘SUGAREGG’ | Album Review

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Bully’s new album SUGAREGG is out now via Sub Pop Records.

Bully’s album SUGAREGG, released through the mighty Sub Pop Records, sounds like a record that should be released through them. In a nutshell, that’s it. But that’s no fun, let’s smash that nutshell open. Look at it, the shell, the bits and bobs hidden inside, all of it. In 500ish words of metaphor soaked joy. A review.

The artwork on SUGAREGG is an image that sticks with me as I let this album crawl into my brain. The rich midday sea blue sits against the J. Mascis-esque guitar perfectly. The purifying image of utopian water washing Alicia Bognanno’s hand holds true to the lyrical content and delivery. The album feels like a cleansing of whatever muck she’s picked up in the prelude to the album. It’s quite beautiful and painful at times.

So, music. Big feedback, click click click click and we’re off on the first entry, ‘Add It On’. Fast tempo sun-soaked and distorted guitars race in the face of a slacker punk style sound. The first verse comes at you with such intent you can’t help but prick your ears up. The strained vocal delivery of Alicia is perfect, tearing away at herself, ‘A LIAR A LIAR’ she exorcises from the corners of her punk heart. A more ethereal, softer and sung approach is counterpointed against this harshness for chorus and bridge, to add a tickle of heartbreak and melody, swinging with the racing guitars and cymbal heavy wall of sound from the drums. Big building crescendo from the bridge, ring out on final note. Excellent. How to write a good song 101. And this expertise is thrown at you time and time again.

Bully, or more specifically Alicia Bognanno, knows exactly who she is on this album. She’s recently turned the band from a 3 piece into a solo project, with accompanying members. Essentially, she’s dealt with personal issues, taken control of her music and life, citing finding the right treatment for her bipolar for this albums groundedness. All this has been thrown onto the canvas of SUGAREGG like the paint from Jackson Pollock’s hand. Although Bognanno is a product of Steve Albini’s studio Electrical Audio engineering the previous two Bully albums, this time she handed these duties to Grammy award-winning producer John Congleton, with a beautifully rich result. Also, the album is littered with little outtake style snippets from the sessions, which I love.

It’s nothing but an aural treat to hear an album execute from a place it know where to hits from. Alicia is employing the plethora of musical tools left for her by late 80’s early 90’s noise-driven post-punk and grunge Bible writers like Dinosaur Jr, Husker Du and The Lemonheads, the huge anthemic distortion and loud quiet loud approach is tried and tested, works, every time. Her racing little guitar melodies running through a waterfall of sounds, piercing, beautiful and considered. Like a water pistol shooting you in the face with musical holy water during torrential rain.

Vocally, Alicia takes centre stage on this album. Her raspy and gravelled attack on ‘Where to Start’ take me to all the great parts of Courtney Love’s Hole, raspy, immediate. The ethereal, dreamlike, softer tone she employs on ‘Prism’ showcases her ability to take a song to a special place, you’re swaying in a colourful haze, helpless, bloody dripping in all this wonderful music. There are moments she transcends and enters the anthemic territory of Perry Farrel and those are the moments I cherish on SUGAREGG. All this vocal power, the weight of lyrical content and undeniably catchy garage grunge power of the music make SUGAREGG an ‘angst for adults’ must. Let it in, go kick a bin over and burn something an ex gave you in your local park.

Order the album here.

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