Punk purists have vilifying opinions when it comes to (GASP!) pop punk. Despite widely acclaimed bands like The Ramones and The Kinks paving the way toward this dancier, poppier sound, pop punk is often treated like a cancer in many music circles, especially older ones, whose fans conveniently forget how much they loved Dookie or …And Out Come the Wolves, Smash, or hell, even The Blue Album, at the time of their releases. While some may point to Green Day for being “the beginning of the end,” I’d certainly place that blame on Blink 182, whose Enema of the State spawned legions of wannabes (New Found Glory, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte) and turned the genre into a huge middle school-aged joke. Darkest timeline.
It’s safe to say, though, that most music fans—punk fans, included—have at one time or another enjoyed a pop punk band or album, or at the very least, enjoyed The Ramones or something similar. If you open your eyes and ears (and you’re not a pretentious douchebag), there is still some fantastic pop punk being churned out by teens and twenty-somethings who may not have even been alive when Weezer wrote The Blue Album or when “Longview” first hit MTV. One of those bands is Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss.
Eva Hendricks (vocals/guitar), Spencer Fox (vocals, guitar), Sam Hendricks (drums), and Dan Shure (bass) brought their power-pop-punk blend to New Haven’s Cafe Nine recently and quickly showed the crowd what it means to have moxie. Touring their new debut LP, Guppy (check out TLW’s review here), the set had plenty of shredding guitar, hooky, exploding choruses, and Hendricks’ high-pitched shrieks to go around.
The group opened with “Percolator” and quickly zipped through other Guppy cuts, new tracks (“Marble”), and some of 2014’s Soft Serve EP. While there’s no denying the foursome’s lighter elements, more emphasis should be placed on the power aspect here; it’s shiny and happy, but also grungy, dirty even, channeling early Weezer, straight out of the Pinkerton days. While Charly Bliss sometimes skews toward puppies and rainbows, it’s juxtaposed with lyrics about dead puppies, bloody subway rides and therapy sessions, giving it just enough edge to make the entire package feel off-kilter.
The band’s live presence is just as powerful and tight as its hooks. The four friends (including a brother/sister combo) gel on stage, playfully bumping into each other, playing face-to-face at times, and harmonizing beautifully on their sugary (kinda), blissful (maybe) tracks. You can feel friendship and it sucks you in, making you feel like you’re just hanging out with buddies in someone’s parents’ basement back in the day. Homey vibes are aplenty at a Charly Bliss show.
Closing with “Love Me,” Eva ditched her guitar and used her newfound freedom to jump and thrash around on stage, her chance to expel one last burst of energy. It was a strong finish to an already able performance that, while youthful enough to appeal to today’s kids, also served a side of serious 90’s grunge nostalgia. All ages, indeed.