There are some records that color inside all the lines and yet the resultant rainbow found inside them is something of completely singular value. Bully’s Feels Like plays according to all the rules of fuzzy ‘90s indie rock and doesn’t even really try to rewrite them. Still, the way they kaleidoscopically color within the basic outline of that time and style proves their personality alone is enough to turn them into a band worth watching for a while to come.
This isn’t just some nostalgia trip, though. Bands like Yuck and Speedy Ortiz already paved the way for Bully when it came to reviving the ‘90s without repeating them. If a decade’s musical zeitgeist got something right and people have been ignoring it, there’s no shame in bringing it back. Luckily, Bully mostly sounds like Bully and not like any ‘90s band in particular, more like a group you may have missed from when Seinfeld was still on the air than one that actually was. It’s emulation of an ethos, not imitation of any particular standard-bearer’s version of that ethos.
Alicia Bognanno’s lyrics and vocals are the main reasons this is a record of distinction. They’re the colors that light up the page in a brand new way. That doesn’t detract from the strength of the songs as a whole or the band’s talent in playing them. The tracks are so punchy and the guitar hooks are so fun that punky yowling about things that piss her off would be enough to guarantee enjoyment. Given the brevity of the songs, every word and thought doesn’t have to matter, but, lucky for us, they all do. Her honest thoughts on everything from the pleasures and regrets of memory (“I Remember”) to the frustrations of living under the shadow of insecurities (“Trying”) are here. You only get to hear her sing and think aloud for under 30 minutes, but it’s enough to make an impact for the remainder of this year and probably much longer after that.
Given Feels Like isn’t even half an hour, all but two songs’ titles are only one word long and every melody is catchy enough to get stuck in your head for eternity after one listen, this is a record for 2015 if there ever was one. In our status-and-tweet social media world, it’s refreshing to see an album short enough to hold any listener’s attention for its whole (admittedly short) duration while using every moment well.
Feels Like is a debut of the same melodic stripes as Weezer’s Blue Album, and it comes as a package deal with all the emotional honesty and intensity of their Pinkerton. Bognanno’s conquest of the catchy is right up there with Cuomo’s early material, and her observations are similarly honest when it comes to matters of personality, sexuality and society. Plus, she could probably kick Rivers Cuomo’s ass. And she could definitely kick mine.