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Charly Bliss - Guppy (Album Review)

Friday, 28 April 2017 Written by Huw Baines

The best pop songs have both a visceral and intellectual impact. Job number one is always to make us feel something - like the fizzing overload of a perfect hook - but they then set to work on us in the spaces between the sugar rushes. On ‘Guppy’, their first album, Charly Bliss tick both boxes as though doing so were routine. It’s not, which is why this stacks up as a deeply impressive record that’s never less than a shitload of fun.

The band - vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks, her drummer brother Sam, guitarist Spencer Fox and bassist Dan Shure - have already demonstrated their pop chops across a series of short-form releases, but the ease with which they translate the immediacy of their early singles into a cohesive whole here is something to marvel at. ‘Guppy’ is beautifully paced and never once lets the momentum slip.

Charly Bliss play a mix of bubblegum punk and power-pop that leans heavily on chunky power chords and Hendricks’ versatile voice - which moves from slick to piercing in a heartbeat - to deliver songs that are enjoyably direct and surprisingly subversive.

They combine the DayGlo melodic nous of That Dog with the towering harmonies of ‘Girlfriend’-era Matthew Sweet (if he’d been a bit more liberal with a distortion pedal) but also regularly pull apart those structures. 

Some of the writing here - particularly the ascending chorus of Ruby and jagged Totalizer - feels lived in and totally fresh all at once, while Black Hole, a nominally straightforward pop-rock song, will leave you questioning whether you truly know the difference between a verse and a chorus.

Hendricks’ words will also stick with you. Just below their giddy exteriors these songs speak of insecurity, brittle self-esteem and lingering damage done as much as they get swept up by how much of a good time we’re all having. “Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” Hendricks sings on Glitter, the LP’s lead single. A song earlier, on the wonderful Westermarck, she asks: “Would you believe me if I was right?”.

‘Guppy’ exposes the great lie that pop songs are uniformly straightforward or throwaway. It’s a feast for those who savour canny revisions to the accepted rulebook, while Hendricks’ work is warm, funny and absolutely razor sharp. If they’re not the best yet, they might be soon.

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