Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Favorite Albums of 2017 Number 9 - Bully's Losing

If we're to have any semblance of sanity, we should frame 2017 as the year of the great catharsis and hope it leads to real change in every aspect of society. As the year comes to a close, with the probes into Russian collusion and the deluge of sexual misconduct accusations of various degrees finally being exposed and taken seriously as we rally to take down toxic masculinity in all it's forms, there is some evidence that this may be true. There are probably more literal and overtly political soundtracks for this year, but spiritually, I think Bully's Losing, featuring Alicia Bognanno's raspy, empowering wail of exasperation/defiance/relief captures the moment in a more timeless way.

losing

The power of this album's lyrics is in how personal they are. These songs are all very specific and yet the first person lyrics that are usually directed at an individual offer the opportunity to rob them of elaborate context. And that's ok, because they're ultimately about the way Bognanno feels in these situations that we don't have all the facts for. They are very simple and literal descriptions of things that resonate with emotional poetic truth, particularly because of the music and the way they are delivered. For me, the album's closer, "Hate and Control" with lyrics like "What is it about me/That makes you so uncomfortable?/Can we just exist without your hate and control?" frames the whole thing as being about this young woman screaming at those who would hold her down, either emotionally or physically.

While the whole band sounds great, what mostly stands out to me here, aside from Alicia's Scream (possible cover band name) is the rhythm section. As I've written before about the band, Bully takes the sound of the 90s and runs with it. They call to mind everyone from The Pixies and The Breeders to Weezer and Nirvana. And because they understand what made those bands special, their songs always have a good groove under them, no matter how noisy the guitars might get. Bassist Reece Lazarus and drummer Steward Copeland sound fantastic on this album. When playing the loud quiet loud dynamic as this band does, it's important to let the bottom end pop. Alicia Bognanno's production is right on, with an atmosphere that lets the music breathe and gives a great sense of space. When I listen to some of the best albums of the 90s, particularly those recorded by Steve Albini, who Bognanno interned with, it's the drums and bass that most stand out. This album fits in with that tradition.

Overall, Losing is full of catchy songs that will help you through your shitty day. You don't need to feel exactly what she's singing about to appreciate the emotion behind her wail. You'll recognize that you too feel like screaming at someone like that sometimes. But it's screaming and exposing pain, not to wallow in it, but to alleviate it as a form of empowerment and healing.  Just as I wrap this up, Time's Person of The Year 2017 was announced and it's fitting. Because, really, silence gets you nowhere. Fuck silence.

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