by Dylan Laug (@blackwithsapdad)
The self-titled full-length debut by Bloomington, Indiana’s Bugg is a salve for sunburns acquired on cloudy days. It succinctly distills grunge and pop, wallowing in the well-trod disaffection of being crammed into the mold of modern society’s idea of adulthood. Although the duo, composed of Kora Puckett (guitar, vocals) and Justin Hatton (drums), doesn’t stray far from the formula of crunchy guitar pop, laden with feedback, they do it incredibly well and drag you in for multiple listens with great melodies and some insanely catchy hooks that you’ll definitely find yourself singing under your breath for days after listening.
This ability to write great grunge pop tunes is best exemplified in “Bleached,” the lead-off track on this debut. Puckett’s deadpanned delivery of “He says I could use all the help I could get/Bullshit/She says I afford a friend or two/Fuck you,” in all of its misanthropic glory, acts like a thesis statement for the sentiments found on the rest of the record. The warbled guitar solo that closes out the track showcases one of Bugg’s greatest assets; great melodies that sugar-coat the heaviness that makes up the backbone of their songs. “Wishing Well” and “Caveman” follow in this tradition and act as a great three-part introduction to the record. “Caveman,” in particular, has a great driving riff that calls to mind The Men’s “Pearly Gates.” Together, these three tracks beautifully introduce a band that is destined for greater things than the demo-core scene they may have been birthed from.
Throughout the middle of the record, Bugg proves that they can just as easily thrive when they slow down the pace for slow-burners like “(Do You Wanna) Go Out” or “Pure.” Although these tracks lack the immediacy of the first three songs on the album, they make for a welcome change, allowing guitar solos to mount and build in ways that will appeal to fans of J. Mascis and Neil Young, alike. “Pure” also features some of the most personal lyrics of the entire album and allows for some insight into the heavy disillusionment found throughout the album. It’s likely that many listeners around Puckett’s age will be able to empathize with the sentiments of aversion to religion and its inability to provide answers to depression and anxiety. When songs like this provide comfort, it’s apparent that misery truly does love company.
Bugg makes the biggest step away from the grungy guitar pop on “I Don’t Wanna Hear It,” which finds Puckett and Hatton dipping their toes in the more hardcore-tinged end of the grunge pool. Puckett’s shouted vocals and grunts between lines seem heavily influenced by some of the bands really experimenting with the hardcore genre, such as Gag or Mr. Dusty. The track makes for a nice cathartic moment before the band transitions back to the 90s alternative-indebted closer, “Homebody,” which sounds like it could have been a b-side from Siamese Dream. The sound of distant crashing and stomping fittingly closes the album out, eerily echoing the mounting frustration with the modern world that is strewn about the record.
Although this debut full-length carries the substantial weight of differentiating itself from the plethora of other bands pulling from 90s influences such as Happy Diving or Weed, Bugg does a great job of varying the sounds and textures just enough to keep your attention throughout the 30 minutes that it occupies. While it may not break new ground, the relatability of the subject matter discussed in the lyrics and the band’s ability to write huge hooks makes the debut a solid listen and highlights a band that is hopefully only beginning to hit their stride.