When people talk about 90s music, they tend to focus like a laser-beam on grunge and use the word angst a lot. Although it’s a narrow view, there’s something to be said for the way certain feelings came through in various related genres, feelings that became iconic reflections of how Gen X-ers felt in our 20s. Of course, in reality, none of this was necessarily invented in the 90s. Most of it came from punk and other genres of the 70s and 80s, and angst itself is as old as time. None the less, the perceived essence of what became known as 90s alternative rock suffered a backlash as it became more popular—it was repeatedly and emptily copied until it became dated, replaced by the emergence of Britpop, emo, the garage revival, and other rock offshoots. Still, when done honestly, there’s no reason the angsty sounds of the 90s can’t still be relevant. That’s proven by Bully, who just released the second single, “Running” from their forthcoming second album Losing, appropriately on Sup Pop records.
Front-woman Alicia Bognanno’s voice, songwriting and production recall bands like The Pixies, early Weezer, The Breeders and even Nirvana. Like those artists, Bully make good use of the loud quiet-loud dynamic. But also, Bognanno’s production style is the result of being a big fan of Steve Albini, who she interned with. There’s a real sense of space in “Running” as the quiet parts lead to a raspy, screamed chorus that fills the room. The band, as on their first album, Feels Like, is tight and in sync, but with enough looseness to make it swing. It’s all very organic and feels very much alive, sounding clean but edgy and raw. The style may be rooted in the 90s, but the angst and passion are very much her own.
Bognanno has said this song is about shamelessly avoiding difficult feelings by keeping yourself distracted. In the era of ubiquitous devices, that’s likely a bigger concern than it was in the 90s, but is universal and timeless all the same. So, stop avoiding your cathartic release, listen to this song and scream along with Alicia. It will make you feel much better to let it out.
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