Charly Bliss, a Brooklyn based four-piece, is far from the first band to revel in the glory of the 90s, but their debut, Guppy is infused with something more nuanced than just nostalgia. Guppy is ten songs of churning guitars, lead singer Eva Hendricks’s candy-sweet voice, and impossibly catchy melodies. There’s sheer joy here; if you’re not dancing around your room to these songs, you’re at least nodding your head along to the beat as the music blasts out of your headphones. There’s real poignancy as well; even on songs that seem silly, or downright ridiculous.
Take “DQ” for instance: the song starts out being about Hendricks’ jealousy of her boyfriend’s dog: “Does he love me most now that his dog is toast?” But somehow, in Charly Bliss’s hands, a song with the chorus, “I’m four years above sixteen/ I bounced so high, I peed the trampoline/I’m too sad to be mean/ I’m gonna end up working at Dairy Queen,” ends up capturing the self-doubt, the anxiety of growing up, and the reluctance to abandon childhood for the nebulous realm of adulthood better than anything in recent memory.
Guppy has an interesting origin story, in that it was recorded once years ago, thrown out, and then recorded again. The band, which consists of Hendricks, her brother Sam and longtime friends Spencer Fox and Dan Shure, has been touring for years (opening for acts such as Veruca Salt and Sleater Kinney) and wanted to bring the same kind of vivacity to their record as their live shows. “We felt our live show was really strong, and those recordings just weren’t doing them justice. We’re a pop band. We weren’t sounding as accessible as we thought our music could be,” guitarist Dan Shure said in an interview with Bandcamp Daily. As a result Guppy feels incredibly structured and fully-formed, without ever once sounding tired.
Charly Bliss is not a band that uses words simply as fillers in their sonic soundscapes, like some of their 90s loving contemporaries. Like all of the best albums, there’s a world inside Guppy, a frenzied, chaotic whirlwind where everything is happening at once. “Well, I think I’m still breathing/ While my parents are sleeping/ I am sick, but I’m speaking/ My boyfriend is freaking/ My conscious is fucked and my judgement is leaking,” Hendricks sings in album opener “Percolater.” It’s reminiscent of the kind of marathon days of youth, going from party to party, coming into work hungover, skidding from place to place on momentum alone –moments where you think your life is a mess but that in retrospect were the best times. There’s not much time set aside for reflection; instead it gets wrapped up in everything else.
Guppy contains odes to a cast of characters, ranging from Eva’s therapist (“Ruby”) to her ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend (“Julia”), to another ex who left her for his own cousin, (“Westermarck”). The songs don’t sound terribly different from one song to the next, but they definitely don’t blend into each other and fade away either; Guppy is consistently engaging, energetic and entertaining. This is not an album for passive listening; this is one to replay all night long.