Nashville’s Bully has gone through a lot in the past few years. From frontwoman Alicia Bognanno’s diagnosis and treatment for biploar II disorder to restructuring the band as a solo act after parting ways with previous bandmates, it’s safe to say that things have been tumultuous. But Bognanno is not one to back down from the challenge. Her third release SUGAREGG finds her opening up and writing about these experiences, releasing a mix of alt-rock moshers and slow burners where she confronts her frustrations with a speaker-blasting fervor.
This is the first Bully release that isn’t engineered by Bongnanno herself, instead passing on the reins to the grammy-award winning producer John Congleton. And it pays off, giving her leeway to go out there and express herself freely with another master behind the board. Her piercing voice cutting through walls of distortion like a grittier, more guttural Gwen Stefani.
The album opens with “Add it on” which immediately kicks things into high gear with no regard for casualties. Bognanno’s anger is palpable with every wailed lyric, and already we find her inner struggle to find herself amidst all the chaos. “I’m angry And I want someone to blame”, she yells, with the blasting guitars to match her frustration. In “Every Tradition” she spits on imposed norms that women are pressured into: “It’s like pressure to have a baby / When I don’t want one in my body.”
Themes of inner struggles and relationships are explored further in the album. In “You” she contends with a dysfunctional parental figure over roaring guitars: “Pain is all mine when you’re around”. “Let You” burns slower, but it’s a more sustained inferno nonetheless. In it she dives on a tug-of-war between love and loss: “I left, I let you down again, I left, I let you / I did it for you”.
But along these lines, there are still moments of levity in the album, especially in times where Bognanno resolves to stop running and face her inner demons. In “Prism” she admits she’s : “just a mess tied in sheets and covered in tears / controlled by the quiet, face to face with my fears”. The melodies are bright and resolute, a stark contrast from the darker shades of its contemporaries. Standout “Hours and hours” echoes with the same conviction. The guitars are more laid back as she confronts her issues matter-of-factly. Filled with clarity and catharsis, she proclaims in the end that : “I’m not holding onto that / I’m not angry anymore.”
SUGAREGG is a journey of self-discovery from a period of suffering, expertly crafted and expressed through the medium of rock. Bully emerges from a pit of despair, and they’re all the more better for it.