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Charly Bliss - Young Enough (Album Review)

Friday, 17 May 2019 Written by Huw Baines

Historically, second albums have been something of a stumbling block. So much so, in fact, that any real failings can usually be chalked up to a dog-eared stack of problems: truncated timeframes, outside pressure, road-weariness, the desire to try something too different too soon. Equally, brushing these problems off and declaring ‘not these guys!’ is one of the easiest, laziest critical tricks in the book.

‘Young Enough’, the second outing from New York alt-pop band Charly Bliss, is far too nuanced an affair to sit comfortably in either camp. It is a huge leap forward from the group’s fizzing debut ‘Guppy’, but it also misplaces many of the things that people came to love about them. Where that record was exuberant to the point of excitement puking, its successor is more studied and happy to play things close to its chest. Its magic is found in repeat listens as its melodies tighten their grip.

‘Young Enough’ has a pronounced neon glow that radiates out from its cover and through the banks of synths that occupy the tracklisting. This shift detracts from the blown out power chords that Eva Hendricks and Spencer Fox flung at one another on ‘Guppy’, but it better serves these songs.

The album’s finest moments are distinctly mannered and reliant on Hendricks’ expressive vocal performance to make their point—dialling back the guitars is actually something of a masterstroke.

Capacity, the lead single, is a case in point. Over synth-bass and, eventually, a scorching ‘80s-style guitar break Hendricks paints a painful picture of millennial burnout. Anxiety swirling, self-doubt nipping at her heels, she sings: “I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me.” On the slow burn opener Blown To Bits, she sees beyond the present moment but only seems to sink further: “I don’t know what’s coming for me after 24.”

The album’s centrepiece is its title track, a smashy power-ballad that runs beyond five minutes over a dancing bassline from Dan Shure. It is a magical, deeply romantic portrait of first love that Hendricks pointedly pits against discussions of an abusive relationship elsewhere on the record. It’s a vital, powerful choice. “I elected to drown in you,” she sings, adding in the middle eight: “We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much.”

If ‘Young Enough’ landed in 1996, the cries of sellout would follow soon enough. It is enough of a dive into the unknown to alienate those who demand more of the same, but Charly Bliss handle the changes with such verve that they feel natural and invigorating. The real joy of pop music—beyond gear, distortion pedals, rockist authenticity, and the rest of it—lies in songs that make us feel something real. Look no further.

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