The Nashville-based, female-fronted rock group Bully has the rotten luck of making music two decades after the explosion of grunge and the riot grrl movement. If their sophomore album Losing had come out back in 1993 or 1994, their clang-and-roar guitars, tidily crafted tunes and alternately deadpan and shrieking vocals might have sounded fresh and startling.
Unfortunately, coming out after, say, Live Through This, Rid of Me, Call the Doctor and In Utero, Bully’s music suffers from what Harold Bloom called the “anxiety of influence.” You just can’t help but think that somebody else has already done what they try to do here. Not only that, those precursors have done it more pungently or forcefully.
Indeed, Losing pales in comparison to the work of more contemporary acts too. White Lung has Bully beat for vitriol, Waxahatchee for tuneful sardonicism, Courtney Barnett for quirky empathy, Jessica Lea Mayfield for unvarnished, soul-searing candor. But perhaps worst of all, Losing pales in comparison to Bully’s debut Feels Like — nothing on the new album matches the vividness of songs like “Trying” and “Too Tough.”
Moments like these give the impression that Bognanno has something worth screaming about. And as befits good Music City residents, the riffs and melodies never fail to grab and hold the listener’s ears. If Bognanno can figure out a way to sharpen her lyrics, Bully won’t be losing anymore.