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Bully in the Hallway – Crooks and Their Castles

on December 16, 2011, 7:58am

The standard, school counselor answer as to why bullies act the way they do is to get attention. Chicago’s Bully in the Hallway is doing just that, albeit with a new, hard-hitting 12-track album titled Crooks and their Castles. Your lunch money is safe for now.

Not calling the five guys who make up this band pushovers by any means, but you don’t feel the overt, in-your-face aggressiveness you might have expected with a handle like theirs. Just a whole lotta rock solid, fast-paced guitar work from twin axemen Billy Kenefick and Matthew Kennedy, some of which is pretty densely layered and complex. They’re not going to be mistaken for The Beatles any time soon, but when these two sing along with vocalist John Matthew Simon (which is often), the multifold harmonies are awfully nice, not something you usually hear in music that leans on the punk side. The by-the-book genre definition would probably be “melodic hardcore,” but bully, when used as an adjective, can mean supoib…er, superb. Yeah, let’s stick with that. Think Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo at his power poppiest saying something disparaging to Iggy and The Stooges, and $#!% going down.

It’s interesting; you’d think that playful songs titles like “Stickup Chicks”, “Tight Pantz”, “You Got Me!”, and easy favorite “If I Can’t Have My Cake and Eat It Too… Then I’ll Have Pie” would lend themselves to more “1, 2, 3, 4” Ramones-type R&R (or Blink-182 tomfoolery). There’s an intricate sophistication to almost all of them though, despite some sounding like they were recorded in a makeshift home studio, which only adds to their raw, garage-y charm. If they keep this up, we may be talking about this Bully in the same breath as another Chicago band with punk tendencies who can carry a tune, and that’s Rise Against.

Essential Tracks: “Golden Bones”, Advice,” and “Crooks”