I remember one of the first gigs I saw after moving to University. It was by a band called Perfect Pussy, in the back room of a hipster pub. They were a band who just fucking loved noise, to be honest. On record this worked like seeing the bobbing heads of melodies swimming in an ocean of scrawl, and it worked rather well at that, but live it was a form of systematic toture. The acoustics would have been better in a small tin can, and consequently the drummer’s snare was somehow louder than the vocals, as was everything else. The soundman is now working in a school for the deaf because that’s the only place he’s tolerated.
What I learnt was that although noise is good – noise is music, noise is power, noise is exciting, noise is not Coldplay – melody is also great. (Which, of course, you need to be able to hear to appreciate). And the more different the melody of the chorus is from the rest of the song, the more likely it is to be fucking great.
That’s why noise bands – as pop bands pedalling melody like the rest – need to have contrast. There can be no loud without quiet. If there is no quiet, then it is not music but noise noise, like hydraulic drilling noise. Perhaps if someone had pointed this out to Bully then we would have a far finer album on our hands.
I say that because the band lurch between great music and bad music on their debut album, Feels Like. The good – possibly even great songs – such as Trash, Brain Freeze, Bully and, most notably Trying – bring the softer side of their music round and make it work really nicely with the louder parts. It works how the best of loud music does – the quiet parts slowly unlocking tension so that the loud parts can properly mash your brains into a stew. The contrast is key; otherwise the sound (loud loud loud) would be monotonous and exhausting.
That’s exactly what happens on pretty much every other track. Keep a song at the same tempo throughout, and the pressure’s really on to bring in some great melodies. Then, and only then, will the music work. Frankly, the melodies simply aren’t there. I Remember, Reason and Too Tough – the first three songs on the album, and three out of at least half a dozen of their sort on the album – serve as a near-complete encyclopaedia of guitar music in the last 20 years – mid-tempo, dull dirge.
Considering the promise which Bully appeared to have following the release of Trying, it has to be said that this a pretty disappointing album, but not an awful album. There’s at least 4 or 5 good songs on there, but all in all it’s a small footnote in the continuing death of guitar music.