The first time I saw Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss perform, their set was sweaty, joyous absolution: running eyeliner, spilled beer, turbocharged female-fronted pop punk in revelation. Their first full-length release, Guppy, channels this frenetic energy, brash and brilliant. It’s candy-coated despair and triumph: brooding, wailing, rolling in glitter, sugar and excess, propelled by Eva Hendricks’ unique vocal style. Self-described as “bubblegum grunge,” the conceit of this moniker being that the album is not as simple, pink and tooth-rotting as the term suggests. It’s more like feeling one’s saliva swim around a Warhead, mouth-puckering-ly sour in its martyrdom, followed by sweet aftertaste.
Guppy is supremely dance-able, catchy and tonally uplifting. Within this framework, it subversively presents a monstrous emotional landscape, shaded in the neon delight of girlhood, the corrosiveness in a nail polish’s sheen. It’s the darkest thing you’ve ever written in a diary, the calculation behind every utterance of “kiss me.” In “Percolator,” Hendricks’ soft invitation of “Don’t you know I aim to please?/I”m everybody’s favorite tease” later progresses to a culminating “My conscious is fucked/ and my judgment is leaking.” There’s a similar brutality in “Black Hole” where both “Take me on a date” and “Burn me at the stake” compose the force of the refrain. In “Scare U” Hendricks addresses an ambiguous romantic interest with childlike fixation: “I wanna say you want it/but I don’t know what I mean” spilling out in rushed insecurity. There is an unflinching honesty to its delivery, in manic shrieks and girlish declaration.The vocal landscape of the album is also peppered with screams that wouldn’t be out of place in a playground: woodchips, monkey bars, and arrested development.
Childhood images bleed into descriptions of 20 something circumstance, red mouths, Gatorade, sno-cones, trampolines, blood and piss, all presented on the edge of sunny guitar solos. The tracks are delivered with deft and noisy instrumentals that land with overwhelming warmth and motion, reminiscent of glowing 90’s indie rock with riot grrl aesthetic. They follow Hendricks’ lyrical lines throughout refrains and at times, cut in with heavy contrast. The darkly plaintive and grungy “Julia,” a lament about an ex’s new girlfriend, is particularly steeped in this sonic heaviness.
There’s also something about this album’s examination of the world that blends everyday empowerment and humiliation together in shocking color. In this way there’s something that is quintessentially youthful about it. Are the lyrics “I wanna touch you/I want to cry” in Westermarck from the perspective of a child meeting her canine sibling for the first time, or the lament of a not-so-sober 24 year old whose texts go unanswered at 2 AM? This ambiguity and vulnerability makes the album a soundtrack fit for remembering drunken mishaps, delivering poorly timed confessions, and smearing lipstick on beer cans. I could write so much more about this album and its affective genius, but you’d be infinitely better off with the embed below: