Though only their second release, and with time to grow still, Bully seems content to continue with what works. Nashville’s ‘90s-infused grunge-punk band, fronted by raspy-voiced howler Alicia Bognanno and supported by Stewart Copeland (not that one), Clayton Parker and Reece Lazarus on drums, guitar and bass respectively, have nailed their formula. As initially illustrated on their first album, Feels Like, they employ Bognanno’s fierce pipes with a wall of shredding rock music to reach into your nervous system and get the blood hopping. While Bully’s system does energize, and Bognanno’s yowls are impressive, listening to a full Bully album in one sitting can become a relatively tiring and repetitive exercise, as compared to the power a single song can have.
Losing, their second full length album, clocks in at 37 minutes with a dozen songs, which is just enough time before you might really lose interest. The album starts semi-promisingly, with “Feel the Same,” a sort-of-successor to the last album’s resonant “Trying,” with the same basic sentiment of muddling through situations despite any major improvements in mindset or behavior, but it soon becomes a pretty lyrically repetitive track that doesn’t quite reach a musical catharsis either. Those drawbacks continue throughout the album, with a few changes in formula mixed in.
“Kills to Be Resistant,” “Blame” and “Focused” are the most interesting, sonically, as we get glimpses of Bognanno’s other vocal abilities outside of her impressive howls, with “Resistant” building up to the climax that we missed in the prior track, “Feel the Same.” “Focused” is the quietest song on the album, almost tender even, until it explodes in a frenzy that suits the anxious feelings of the singer, employing the raucous skills of the band with purpose rather than just by routine.
Additionally, a few of the songs feature some insightful lyrics that sneak up on you, despite Bully’s focus not usually being overspent on word choice. “Guess There” has the singer claiming “on the weekends, I’ve been taking it easy / No, I swear it’s my choice, I got a ton of things to keep me busy/ And the truth is unproductivity haunts me, ‘cause I hate feeling useless” while “Either Way” is quite romantic (without sacrificing musical toughness), with lyrics “I want you either way/ Even if you can’t stay” and “I drove past my house just an extra mile or two/I wanted to wait ‘til the song was over/I kept driving and I thought about you.”
So while that handful of songs is dynamic or insightful in surprising ways, the other six or seven tracks are largely similar in their sound, relatively simple refrains, and heavy wall of sound, that ultimately makes it hard to differentiate between the songs if you’re not paying close attention.
Overall, Losing is a good continuation of the sound Bully debuted in 2015, with the feature being Bognanno’s vocal abilities, backed by the shaggy, raucous rock of her band mates. The skills of Bognanno, Copeland, Parker and Lazarus can create bursts of energy and rocking fun when listened to individual songs at a time, but as an album experience the sound starts to sound repetitive and static. Hopefully the next album will utilize a little more of the quieter sounds employed in Losing, in addition to more powerfully loud highs, for a more interesting 40-minute experience.