Updated: Feb 1
Its finally here - the Charly Bliss sophomore album, Young Enough.
The past five years have seen vocalist Eva Hendricks, her brother and drummer Sam Hendricks along with Spencer Fox (guitar) and Dan Shure (bass) explore the expansive rim-world of punk-rock-power-pop.
2014 was home to the release of their debut EP along with a three-part music video and accompanying comic book trilogy. During this time their merch desk featured a gumball machine filled with Charly Bliss brand stickers and pins. When the New York four-piece had their first crack at recording a debut they scrapped it midway and restarted despite being the destitute uni students they were.
When Guppy finally came along it was the dream debut. It fed a slavering cult following with its cryptic lyrics sandwiched between energetic alt-rock riffs and explosively twee vocals. Tracks like 'Percolator' and 'Black Hole' were breaths of 90s indie-rock life. "I'm everybody's favorite tease! / Put your hand on my knee," Hendricks invites before screaming "I'm gonna die in a getaway car / I haven't tried, but it sounds too hard."
In Young Enough Charly Bliss open the gates to blinding pop clarity and glistening synth textures. Opener 'Blown to Bits' while not immediately memorable definitely serves its purpose as an overture to the pop powerhouse that comes next. Lead single 'Capacity' achieves its edgier texture not by amping up its instrumentation as in Guppy, but instead embracing the mechanical buzz of electronica. The sweet bounce of synth keyboard betrays this infectious track's darker allusions. “Resurrected from the basement / I’m at capacity / I’m spilling out of me," Hendricks shares that Young Enough is largely inspired by an abusive relationship.
Yet tracks like 'Camera' remind us of the quirky observational nature of the old Charly Bliss songwriting. Hendricks says "I wrote this while I was on hold with TD Bank because my credit card was stolen by someone who had used $556 to buy a camera at B&H. It made me think about how big and random the world is and how maybe this person had a really good idea for a movie that they were determined to make by any means necessary (we made the 'Westermarck' video for $40, I can relate to this!), and I was totally ruining their brilliant idea by alerting my bank and closing the card."
A perfect time for the lights to dim Charly Bliss settles the audience in for the second act. The album's one minute interlude 'Fighting the dark' is a cathartic stripped back transition from luminescent pop to its more pained second half. And yet this is where it shines bright. Make no mistake though, Young Enough is no thematic hipster concept album where the numbers of the running time fulfil some sort of poignant backstory. It is much more sincere.
The lengthy journey that is title track 'Young Enough' achieves just that poignant feeling without any convoluted pretence. Hendricks says "We all love this [song]. I’ll never forget when Sam came to me and said, 'I have an idea for a song that has one chord that never changes all the way through it and for some reason I know it’s going to be the best song on the album.' I was ready to strangle him when he told me this because it felt like he was giving me literally nothing to go off of, and all the pressure in the world was on our shoulders!" Rest easy Charly Bliss, Sam was right all along.
“I’m a total people pleaser. Growing up, I was a very outgoing little kid...when you get older...you think, ‘Oh, this used to be so easy to me.’ And now I go home and all I can think about is,‘Did I offend this person? Did I say something weird? Oh my God, should I have made that decision? Am I disappointing my parents; my boyfriend; my family?’...you are always trying to please people, I was just respecting myself less and less,” Eva Hendricks says.
Emotive ballad 'Hurt Me' and buoyant anthem 'Chatroom' are inspired by a relationship in which Hendricks was sexually assaulted. “...I suddenly had the entire verse idea, lyrics, and melody to 'Chatroom'...It was messing with my head, and making me feel awful.” Sardonically invoking religious iconography she sings I was fazed in the spotlight / his word against mine / everybody knows / you’re the second coming. “I think I really had the opportunity on this album to write how I was feeling into songs before I was actually able to verbalise it to anyone in my life...But I’m really lucky that I not only have really wonderful bandmates and my brother is in the band with me, and Dan and Spencer might as well be my brothers as well...Now that it’s out and I’ve talked about it, I feel really good about it.”
If they can be faulted for anything Charly Bliss are too dedicated to their craft, pushing beyond the safe boundaries of their Guppy laurels, an organic progression of their ethic, if not of their sound. “I think we’re people who are very hard on ourselves as musicians...We wanted to one-up ourselves, really badly.” Tracks like 'Bleach' and 'Hard to Believe' shine with high production, almost overly refined, as if passed under Bono's personal polish buffer. With their reliance on pentatonic pop hooks, the tracks lack both the grungy charm of Guppy and the resonant themes of Young Enough's midriff. 'The truth' with its uplifting melodies that betray its brutal lyricism aptly rounds out Charly Bliss' emotionally charged second offering.
Young Enough's bristling pop may draw blood from the Guppy fanatics but it is unapologetic in its new direction. Its an album that can be respected for its intentional poppy-ness because it brings with it new soundscapes and the rending navigation of real-life trauma. Although we lose some of the beaming punk melodies and its comforting fluorescent squeals, we do get an album that is both fun and thoughtful but also meant to be screamed into a hairbrush microphone with the windows down.