Music Reviews

Bully Sugaregg

(Sub Pop) Rating - 7/10

Like few other frontpeople, Alicia Bognanno’s howl is completely unforgettable. It always seems like she’s pushing her register further and further, as if someone had triple-dog-dared her to go as far as she could. Her incredible voice always matches the furious instrumentation of Bully perfectly, keeping up with the attacking guitars and pounding percussion, but the opener to their new album, SUGAREGG, tells a different story. On Add it On, she shrieks “It's not easy trying to talk to you, my voice falls short when it's all you can do” over murky guitars and pummeling drums. Despite the lineup upheaval, the band-turned-solo project’s third album feels more focused on loss and personal change than ever before. It’s familiar thematic material for Bognanno, but it’s never rang this true.

From the aforementioned changes to Bognanno’s musical team, to her struggle and treatment for bipolar 2 disorder, SUGAREGG is centered around the turbulence of the last few years. Those themes pop up all over Bully’s discography, but with her new album, Bognanno sings about mental illness, conflicts in close relationships, and self-sabotage with a frankness which was reserved for occasional usage in the past. On Every Tradition’s second verse, she sings “It's like pressure to have a baby, when I don't want one in my body” after being told that her mind is going to change someday by a partner. The sentiment pops up again on Not Ashamed with a more ferocious approach. The first time Bognanno sings of being pressured by a shitty dude, she sounds exhausted. The second time, she pushes against the shittiness, with her signature howl delivering the line “I’m not ashamed and I don’t regret it” again and again, as if she’s forcing the awful dude to sit down and listen to her, instead of talking over her, by sheer force.

It’s not like much changes sonically for Bully either. Despite there being a new co-producer with industry legend John Congleton, the album is made out of banging drums, driving bass, and washed out, Sub Pop-y guitars. In fact, the album’s weakest point is how washed out it can sound at times. The majority of SUGAREGG is honest and cathartic, but certain songs fade together from time to time. In fact, some of the strongest songs here are the cleanest: take lead single Where to Start, which bristles along like a pop-rock tune with punk vocals, or closer What I Wanted, which is one of the record’s tightest, most explosive moments. While it seemingly ends in the same place it starts (Bognanno singing on loop “I don’t know what I wanted” isn’t really a positive ending), this is Bully’s best project yet, lacing all of their marvelous qualities into a candid and catchy molotov cocktail.