Charly Bliss’ infectious power-pop oozes sun-soaked youthful energy, like something you’d find on the Clueless soundtrack circa 1995. While there’s no denying the pop element of this foursome based in Brooklyn, more emphasis should be placed on the power aspect here; or rather, the “bubblegrunge,” as coined by the band, itself. I’m with that.
On the recently released debut LP, Guppy, the melodies are indeed sugary, but the attitude is bold, the music electric. At times, it feels very mid-90’s; you can picture tunes like these being featured on MTV—you know, when they still played music (aaaand, I just aged myself). This isn’t hard to discern having opened for Veruca Salt a couple years back and taking singer Eva Hendricks’ love for Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) into consideration. But there’s also some early aughts vibes to them, like a slightly younger, smidge edgier Jimmy Eat World. Whatever way you slice it, there’s a lot of fun to be had on the album’s 29 minutes and change.
Hendricks’ voice is high-pitched, nasally at times, and unbridled at all the right moments, with her shrill shrieking filling the room whenever she damn well pleases. On stage, she’s very Renée Zellweger-on-top-of-Empire-Records, with her feisty kicking, leaping and bouncing. All of this spastic energy bleeds through on Guppy, like on “Percolator” when she sings, “I cry all the time, I think that it’s cool, I’m in touch with my feelings,” and later, “I am pregnant with meaning, could I be more appealing, writing slurs on the ceiling, come on BABY, YOU’RE BLEEDING!” The melodies are just as hyper-active as she is, and oh, so addicting.
Hendricks waxes over struggles with depression and anxiety, and her ex’s new lady. She laughs at a lover who’s mourning his dead pooch. There’s even some classic millennial oversharing when she sings about peeing her pants on a trampoline and inorgasmia. “I can’t cum and I can’t lie, I can’t stop making myself cry … Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” she asks on “Glitter,” while never denying her own melodrama and dejection amid all the heartbreak and mental disconnect. It’s a real representation of 20-something life in America—of feeling too many feelings, while questioning how to process them all. And it’s relatable as hell.
Musically, Charly Bliss never neglects being hooky. It’s a skintight record of hummable bits and earworm-y choruses that are impossible to forget, not that you’ll want to. Guitarist Spencer Fox knows where his band’s strength lies and complements the tracks rather than overpowers them. Even when he steps out on center stage, he shows reserve, which is the right call for this melody-forward outfit.
Guppy is a record that a younger crowd will absolutely devour. It’s light and sweet, but with a bitingly dark edge hidden underneath its candy-coating. But don’t think this one’s only for millennials; it’s the kind of record that will make older fans of The Breeders or early Weezer feel forever young. And with hooks this tasty, Guppy is all the pop sugar you crave with none of the withdrawals. Grade: A-