Bully’s debut album ‘Feels Like’ delivers a brilliantly gritty and snarling grunge offering. Recorded at the infamous Electric Audio Studio in Chicago, ‘Feels Like’ joins the likes of Nirvana’s ‘In Utero,’ and PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’ to have been cut at Steve Albini’s gnarly den. Lead singer Alicia Bognanno interned at the studio and so brought her Nashville band to Chicago after learning the ropes and the studio’s history.
The album’s similarities with 90’s grunge are threaded throughout each song with fuzzy guitar riffs and Bognanno’s exasperated snarls screeching over clattering drum beats. Opener, ‘I Remember’ sets a perfect pace for the whole record. ‘I remember getting too fucked up, and I remember throwing up in your car’ screams Bognanno before entering into a slower and softer memory while admitting her mistakes and mischief of a past relationship. The song is an example of the album’s content; the Nashville quartet hook their listeners with tales of youth and adventure whilst encouraging hairbrush singing (screaming) and bedroom head banging. The lyrics add a softer and instantly likeable quality to the grungey sound which is refreshing and gives Bully an edge that perhaps their predecessors (The Breeders, PJ Harvey, etc.) lacked.
All of the tracks on the record are brilliant but highlights include ‘Milkman’ with its faster pace and pop melodies where Bognanno contemplates life choices; ‘I could be a milkman or I could get up and be what I want to be.’ ‘Brainfreeze’ is an instant classic with catchy guitar riffs and a pop rock quality to the drum and pace. Whenever a track seems close to slipping into pop territory though Bognanno’s raw snarls bring those thoughts to an abrupt halt. Similarities have been made between Kim Deal and Bognanno, not least because Pixies’ ‘Surfer Rosa’ was also cut in Albini’s studio. But Bognanno has an edge on Deal with the emotional desperation of the Bully singer’s voice. ‘Too Tough’ sees Bognanno adopt a more seductive tone which tempts over shattering drums and slick guitar riffs.
Echoes of grunge’s 90’s heyday are entwined in ‘Feels Like’ and so comparisons with both Kim Deal and Courtney Love are unsurprising. However, Bully prove that their record is good enough to stand alone and will fight to the death for that right. Bognanno produced the record herself and although the history of Albini’s studio has seeped into ‘Feels Like,’ the album is very much Bognanno’s creation. To be cut in the same studio as grunge royalty Nirvana, PJ Harvey and Pixies was no doubt a privilege for Bognanno and her band, but with this record Bully have proved that they are ready to join their ranks.
The full track-listing for ‘Feels Like’ is as follows…