BULLY – “Losing”
THE GOOD: Nashville alt-grunge rockers Bully obliterate the sophomore slump.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Alicia Bognanno is not just the woman in front of this band. She also writes, produces and engineers the entire affair. Make no mistakes — Bully is HER show. After releasing a somewhat polished debut on Columbia, 2015’s “Feels Like,” Bully has jumped over to indie mainstay Sub Pop (probably a better fit for the band’s aesthetic).
“Losing” is a much more harried affair than its predecessor. The mix is raw; the angst factor cranked up. The buzzing guitars sound like vintage Breeders. Bognanno’s ragged vocals resemble Bettie Serveert’s Carol Van Dijk if that singer chain-smoked two packs of cigarettes after pummeling her boyfriend.
The melodies are important and the hooks are certainly present. However this time, it’s more about their delivery and the fits of frustration behind it. “Losing” is both spontaneous and relentless; a record that could explode at any second. Embrace that urgency.
BUY IT?: Yes.
PRIMUS – “The Desaturating Seven”
THE GOOD: California indie rockers Primus get weirder than usual on their ninth.
THE BAD: Primus are going through their “covers and/or concept albums” phase. Be wary.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Last time it was an album reinventing the songs from 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Now, it’s a rock opera of sorts based upon the children’s book “The Rainbow Goblins.”
Their absurd mix of rock, funk, metal and prog remains intact, as does the tight musicianship. Bassist/frontman Les Claypool and original drummer Tim Alexander play off one another flawlessly, thereby re-forming one of the greatest current rhythm sections in rock. Guitarist Larry LaLonde is no slouch either; his playing highly intricate and innovative.
However, the album becomes bogged down by its concept. The arrangements are overly ambitious; the melodies far too complex in spots. Primus ends up in strange half-baked King Crimson territories. Listening with a critical ear proves difficult. Maybe this stuff is better when you’re stoned.
BUY IT?: Unless you’re an absolute Primus/Claypool fanatic, NO.
BATTLEME – “Cult Psychotica”
THE GOOD: American singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Drenik (stage name Battleme) returns with a blazing fourth.
THE BAD: “Cult Psychotica” gets “jammy” in spots. Don’t expect a tightly crafted set. This one goes for volume and spontaneity. Nothing “bad” about that.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Recorded in Drenik’s own Portland, Oregon studio during frenzied sessions that took about a week to complete, “Psychotica” possesses a unique urgency that draws us into the party immediately. The fiery “No Truth” hits the ground running, and from there, Drenik barely lets us catch our collective breath.
Whether it’s the crashing “Hot Mess” (which eventually crashes and BURNS) or the steady funk rolling beneath “Misfit Honey Bear,” Drenik maintains a happy medium between classic rock swagger and modern rock bombast. You hear trashy Brownsville Station but one also detects the rhythmic tendencies of the Rapture. The messiness of prime early Alice Cooper echoes underneath while the Black Angels’ brashness rings across the top. It all works.
BUY IT?: Sure … and then CRANK it.