April 24, 2017

LP: Charly Bliss - Guppy

Charly Bliss' debut is the best teen movie soundtrack of 2017.

Back in 2015, I saw Charly Bliss open for Colleen Green and Upset at the now adrift DIY venue Shea Stadium. After delivering a thrillingly high energy set, someone in the crowd rudely sneered, “No one came here to see you,” at singer/guitarist Eva Hendricks. That’s certainly going to change now that Guppy, their debut album, has hit streaming sites everywhere. The rough “bubble grunge” of their Soft Serve EP has transformed into full Josie and The Pussycats-inspired pop (the epic 2000s version, duh). Guppy is prime material for your first beach outing or cookout of the summer. It’s music that brings to mind the secretly hip-yet-accessible music teen movie soundtracks; Charly Bliss could easily replace Letters of Cleo in 10 Things I Hate About You. The band shed most of the grit from their beginnings on Guppy, opting instead for glossy histrionics and guitar solos in almost every song. This might send OG punks to the hills, but anyone who grew up thinking Lindsay Lohan’s band from Freaky Friday was the coolest will find a lot to love.

Hendricks can shriek with the best of them, and her band has mastered the loud and soft dynamics to wring the greatest punch out of their songs. The layers of keyboards, shimmering guitars, harmonies, and backing vocals make for fresh sonic treats on each spin of the record. The chorus of “Westermark” is so sun-filled it’s blinding, and the sugary distortion of the guitars entice rather than confront. “Glitter” is the album highlight; a supremely catchy song wondering if we’re our loved one’s first choice. Haters dismissing this as unoriginal '90s throwback pop fluff would do well to take a second look. There’s a common thread of malice and discontent running throughout the album, although it’s easy to miss under all the sparkly packaging. Before the chorus of “Glitter” hits, Hendricks reveals, “I can't cum and I can't lie / I can't stop making myself cry.”

On “Black Hole” she sings “bury me in the bedbugs” so sweetly that you forget she’s asking to be covered in blood-sucking insects. Not content to mention blood once, Hendricks ominously spends the second verse of “Ruby,” “Passed out on the subway with blood in my hair.” On album opener “Percolator,” she sarcastically quips, “Put your hand on my knee / That's what friends are for.” Josie and The Pussycats never kept it quite so real. “Scare You” is one of the few places where the anxiety present in the lyrics creeps into the sound. It’s a song about not wanting to frighten off a crush with the depth of your feelings, but also not wanting to pretend it’s casual anymore. “I don’t wanna scare you / I don’t wanna share you,” Hendricks sings, vocalizing the frantic feeling when every action has the potential to drive the object of your affection away. “DQ,” a song they played back at PWR BTTM’s release show for Ugly Cherries, is a slacker anthem with couplets like, “I’m too sad to be mean, I’m gonna end up working at Dairy Queen” that balance camp and angst. This skill of blending dark with light is what makes Charly Bliss more than meets the eye. Don’t be too dazzled by the hooks on Guppy or you’ll miss it.

STREAM IT:


Listen to Charly Bliss on bandcamp.

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Mo is a writer who can be spotted at the gig dancing like a squid. Follow him on twitter @sadgayfriendx.