When Losing Is Winning
Anyone who has paid attention to the deplorable state of affairs that is currently being exposed throughout so called Tinsel-Town at the present moment will hopefully have also noticed the fantastic, if extremely difficult, uncomfortable, selfless and personal emotively exposing tales of women who have been treated disgracefully by peers and those who wave power like a phallic carrot.
The stories are understandably heavy but essential reading, a bit like the Mindhunter series, we have to stare into the darkness to make sure it never happens again. That and the essential rise of female voice (and #MeToo awareness) amongst all media, as it isn’t the women who are doing the damage and destruction.
Of course it doesn’t have to be such a dramatic tale as a suspected serial killer being tracked by the FBI, just general human behaviour full stop has a lot of ways to go in self awareness, empathy and aspiration. Learning to evaluate, cope and moderate the emotions we experience on a daily basis can go a very long way in raising the standard of our own lives and those around us. Even the natural and universal process of the end of a relationship(s) can give us a nurturing and comforting insight into situations that might be happening to our friends or indeed ourselves.
The cover of Bully’s sophomore album ‘Losing’ (2017) shows a young girl (singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno) effectively hiding from the world under a bedsheet. Some days you can wake up and conquer the world, and some days you have to take time out to quietly refill your reservoir, you feel so depleted. We’ve all been there, and we will all be there again, it being a normal part of life. Though with such a title, it doesn’t inherently inspire running up steps like a Rocky movie.
But that’s not what the course of this album is about. It’s not male bravado, it’s about a mature, difficult, uncomfortable awareness of the wins and loses in ordinary life, how to face up to them, cope with them, not cope with them and eventually heal. In the movies it’s that dramatic singular moment of rising off the canvas for the win, in reality it’s the repetitive monotony and drudgery of getting up and facing the ‘I Feel The Same’ day.
Bully have been around for a few years now, and though they would have just entered the world (if at all yet) with the rise of Seattle grunge that typifies their sound (think Nirvana, Pixies, Breeders, Hole), they would be equally at home and respected in the 90s as today, clearly shown by their signing to Sub Pop. Alicia (who wrote all the songs as well as engineering/mixing the album) has the fantastic duality in her voice of raw power and immense vulnerability (particularly when she does harmonies).
Even in her highest roar there is both strength and pain, and there is always truth and integrity which she beautifully captures in her straight talking exposed warts and all lyrics and the recording process, her internship under Steve Albini at Electrical Audio (where this album was engineered/mixed) has only enhanced her natural abilities and those of fellow band members Clayton Parker (guitar), Reece Lazarus (bass) and Casey Weissbuch (drums).
Over the 12 songs we are captivated by Alicia as she experiences/endures the raging, confusing cacophony of human emotions that often engulf us all when we are at our lowest ebb, the most mundane of tasks now seems Herculean and we blindly don’t know where to turn for respite, never mind salvation.
For centuries Man has used storytelling in books, paintings, films and songs to help themselves and others to deal with situations they are or have been going through. The mere process of that creation shows their defiance to defeat, the creation is the fight, the struggle, the grit, the perseverance, the aim for the ‘Losing’, the Win. Some folk will choose to look at a painting to recoup, I’ll be jumping around to the beautiful riotous life affirming sound and sincerity that is Bully.
9/10 ‘Losing’ by Bully is out now on Sub Pop.
Bully have also announced their return to UK shores with a headline date at London’s Moth Club on May 30th 2018, with tickets on sale now. More UK dates to be added. Check bullythemusic.com for details.