Nashville quartet Bully are everything that indie rock needs right now. Heavy, distorted, reverb-encased guitars thrash about alongside drums that sound as though they’re being pounded by a sledgehammer wielded by the angriest person alive. Alicia Bognanno’s vocals growl and yelp over the chaos beneath. It’s frantic and ugly yet that’s what makes it beautiful, quintessential, garage rock. It’s done well, and it doesn’t sound like it’s been thought about too much; it’s natural. This angst is real.
From the first crashes of the snare and tom on opening track ‘I Remember’ it’s easy to see what Bully are aiming for with their debut release. Musically it’s relentless and unforgiving and even when Bognanno’s delivery softens the instrumentation does not: there’s a ferocity always waiting to engulf the track ten seconds later. Lyrically it’s nostalgic: Bognanno sings that “I remember my old habits / I remember getting too fucked up” in anything but an apologetic manner. This isn’t repenting, it’s a proud statement of how the past moulded the woman behind the microphone into the furious and brilliant person she is today.
Bully are anything but a one-trick pony: the dark, melancholy groove of ‘Picture’ is a moody come-down, an acceptance of inadequacy, and far from the non-stop mania of the previous tracks: Bognanno is “trying to explain / But I can’t spit it out / Or even cough it up”. This pain is ever-present, and the band drags the best parts of ‘90s alt-rock into the present to deal with it. There is something quite cathartic about this: Feels Like is Bully completely vanquishing the self-doubt that festers and grows in every adolescent.