Bully : Lucky For You

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Bully Lucky For You review

A shimmering, reverb-laden guitar hums into being at the start of “All I Do,” Lucky for You’s sublime opener, and from these few seconds alone—before the vocals even kick in—it is not hard to sense that we are about to be treated to a glistening rollercoaster of a pop-grunge album.

Bully—a band whose studio presence, since 2020’s SUGAREGG, has consisted solely of founding member Alicia Bognanno—have built up a name for themselves playing a spirited, messy kind of alt-rock, excelling at both the harshness and the intimacy to which the genre lends itself. Lucky for You is easily the band’s most polished effort so far, with deceptively simple melodies looping their way around a series of fuzz-bathed verses and choruses. The swooping, sloping refrain of “Days Move Slow,” for example, or the rising-and-falling vocals that bounce over a gorgeously murky bassline on “Hard to Love,” exude a vibrant sweetness that feels almost hypnotically pleasant.

Past reviews have argued that Bully’s output is overly reliant on an amalgamation of ‘90s musical tropes, that, no matter how competently executed, still comprise an essentially unambitious foundation for her sonic architecture. From a technical perspective, it’s probably a fair criticism, and Lucky for You does nothing to shake off this trend. But the real problem for any detractors is that Bognanno is just so exceptionally good at it. Lucky for You might well be an exercise in wrapping bright, soaring melodies around tried-and-true pop-rock chord progressions, but there’s such a potent sense of dazzling, aching, heart-fluttering urgency to every single one of the album’s 10 tracks that it can be almost exhausting to listen to. New life is quickly breathed into any old tricks till they’re bursting at the seams, and damn near ready to float away.

The drums that ring, crisp and emphatic, throughout “How Will I Know” are but one expression of this scorching emotionality, as is the gently yearning riff that cascades over Bognanno’s forlorn vocals during the chorus of “A Wonderful Life.” “Ms. America” represents the lowest point on the album, tonally speaking; it’s the penultimate track, and is the kind of spot where someone might opt for a softer, acoustic ditty to carry the song’s mournful message, and to prepare a rollicking springboard for the explosive final-song climax. Not on Lucky for You, though. While percussion is entirely absent from “Ms. America,” the guitars remain very much plugged in—sizzling exuberantly beneath Bognanno’s angelic harmonies—ensuring that, even at its most melancholic, the album bubbles with an excitable, untameable immediacy.

Indeed, such immediacy is no more apparent than in the final track. “All This Noise,” which runs to a fanatically punk-rock 1 minute and 51 seconds, is essentially the ferocious flipside of “Ms. America.” Both songs speak to Bognanno’s profound sense of abandonment by a world that’s falling to pieces (“All I wanted was a daughter, try my best to raise her right / But the whole world’s caught on fire, and I don’t want to teach a kid to fight,” from “Ms. America,” is quite possibly the record’s single most heartbreaking lyric). Where the former is nihilistically resigned, though, the latter is a forceful call to arms against, well, pretty much everything, from climate change, to the Supreme Court’s attack on the right to abortion, to the self-interested media monolith that tries to coerce us into acceptance of the above. Sludgy guitar and drums meld together into a singular, relentless beat, an omnipresent, purposeful thud that underscores Bognanno’s spittle-flinging litany of brutally valid grievances. It’s a lot to pack into a short space of time, but that disorienting feeling is surely the whole point. By ending the album on such an electric, vivifying note—with the kind of song that conventional wisdom might tell you to start a record with—Bognanno makes certain that Lucky for You’s energy is one that never, ever lets up, and that our lingering impression of her fourth record is that of a blistering whirlpool, simmering with passion, tension, and life.

Label: Sub Pop

Year: 2023

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