Spiky Brooklyn punk outfit Charly Bliss knows a thing or two about mirrors.
Pop music loves mirrors. It lives and dies by reflection—easy contrast, identifiable patterns, binaries and contradiction. We want to hear sounds and concepts that shouldn’t go together mesh like God himself was working the dials. Passion Pit’s whole career is based on scuffing sunny soundscapes with tales of addiction and suicide; Springsteen’s most memorable stories about dead-end lives are delivered in the raucous key of celebration.
Spiky Brooklyn punk outfit Charly Bliss knows a thing or two about mirrors. They’re shoved into every corner of Guppy, the band’s gleeful, ‘90s-soaked debut record, and they elevate an already-bright album into a full-blown supernova. For starters, there’s frontwoman Eva Kendrick’s voice: rough, cracked, yet unabashedly feminine. It glides atop chunky guitars, bursts through drum fills and punctuates phrases with jagged, hair-raising squeals. Even if someone described Guppy as melodic punk, you wouldn’t be ready for the sounds that come out of Kendrick’s mouth. She anchors and humanizes the flurry of noise around her by both matching its roughness and injecting it with sweetness.
That soft/hard dichotomy extends to the composition of the songs themselves. This is fuzzed-out, fist-in-the-air, we-don’t-give-a-fuck New York punk fitted with cobweb-sticky pop melodies. “Glitter,” Guppy’s sublime second single, features a rogue synth that slices through a furiously chugging guitar line. Its drums come hard and fast. The pace is relentless, near face-melting, and then the chorus kicks in. Propping up Hendricks’ concise, devastating lyrics (“Am I the best/ Or just the first person to say yes?”), the melody slides into full-blown rapture. It’s the sort of cloud-clearing moment that only Great Big Pop Songs can achieve, and then choral harmonies show up, and we’re in full-blown transcendent territory. On paper, it shouldn’t work: the melody and the instrumental are fundamentally at odds, but it’s this exact tension that ends up sculpting a sort of magic that neither one could achieve on their own.
It’s the same sense of magic that compels us to fetishize our teenage years. Guppy is the sort of album you wish you could point to and say, “This is what high school sounded like.” It’s the record that would result from the sisters in 10 Things I Hate About You forming a band. It manages to bottle the sensation of being young without sacrificing sincerity or approaching the sort of drippy nostalgia that might sink it. It helps that the band clearly loves the music they’re pulling from: Blink-182, PWR BTTM, Britney Spears, Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill all receive equal respect. In the album’s promo material, the band is dressed very much how you’d expect a young band from Brooklyn to dress, but you don’t get the feeling that they’d turn their nose up at you if you wanted to sit down and seriously discuss Avril Lavigne’s Let Go. This variety of Young Forever! power pop only works when there’s no ego at stake, and thrillingly, Charly Bliss seem to have none at all.
That’s not to say they shouldn’t. The group has been steadily gathering buzz ever since their blistering 2014 EP Soft Serve, and if this doesn’t prove to be their breakthrough, then nothing will. They’re still young, and one wonders if they’re willing to vary the pace a bit on future installments, but something tells me that we’re about to hear the crunchy, lilting “Black Hole” and caffeine-blasted “Ruby” thundering through the airwaves in the coming months. They deserve all the exposure they’re about to get; here’s hoping they remember to take a look in the mirror every now and then.