Live Review: US quartet Bully play Cardiff’s iconic Clwb Ifor Bach ahead of TGE & Splendour

US quartet Bully are no strangers to Australian shores – though it’s been a while between drinks, over two years in fact since we welcomed them to AU HQ. But hot off the heels of their sophomore record Losing, the Nashville group are currently touring the UK and will be back in Australia for Splendour in the Grass in July. I couldn’t resist the chance to see the group in action while I was in Wales – so what do the group have in store for their anticipated Aussie return?

Playing Cardiff’s famed Clwb Ifor Bach, a venue which will host our very own Stella Donnelly later this week, the Sub Pop group (who are touring with Seattle’s Dude York from Sub Pop’s sister label Hardly Art) wasted no time jumping into their packed 50-minute-or-so set, kicking things off with the ferocity of their single “Milkman”.

Thrashing her hair around, as she makes her guitar work look easy, lead singer Alicia Bognanno is a force to be reckoned with. And though the rest of the band perform with skill (sounding tighter than ever I might add), this is very much Alicia’s stage – she’s a commanding presence and one who feels every bit the rock star the band’s music requires of her.

“Kills to Be Resistant” followed close behind, which descended into a powerful wall of noise. “Hate and Control” then showed the dynamic range of Alicia’s voice (and proved one of the highlights of the set), before “Either Way” takes things up a notch once again.

Their songs are short, and often they jumped straight from one into the next, with the odd bit of banter thrown in for good measure. “Feel The Same”, for instance, ran right into “Guess There” – which often opens their show, but today came about halfway through. The transitions were seamless and ensured the set was filled with as much material as possible, in the shortest amount of time. “Focused” proved another highlight, and then it wasn’t long before we came to the end of the set – a two track punch in the fact that sees Alicia take off the guitar and descend into the crowd.

You’d find her here on the floor with the audience, screaming into the microphone for a song so intense, loud and brief, I couldn’t even catch it (but I think it was “I Remember”), which led into an impressive (and very well received) cover of mclusky‘s “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues”. And just like that the show was over, the band having making their way through the crowd to reach their green room and not returning for an encore.

They’re a group easily compared to the 90’s Grunge movement, with Alicia herself oft compared to Kurt Cobain – and sure you could make comparisons to any bands of that Ilk… Garbage, The Distillers, whatever you want. But really the band reminds me of Brisbane group WAAX. We can come up with contemporary references too you know! They all grew up on the same music, but that doesn’t mean they’re not making it their own. And what these recent additions to the international Grunge scene prove is that there’s a strong appetite for the genre. Thankfully there are bands like Bully to whet said appetites, doing it with style, ferocity and a few amps cranked up to 11.

Bully play Splendour in the Grass, The Tote in Melbourne (18th July) and The Lansdowne in Sydney (19th July) – grab tickets to the sideshows HERE. If you’re at The Great Escape in the UK you’ll be able to see them there too later this week. Their new album Losing is available now through Sub Pop Records.

The writer attended the 13 May 2018 show of Bully at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, Wales.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.