God bless sarcasm. Without it, and the reliable outlook it provides for generation after generation of upset kids, would there even be indie rock? At the very least, there wouldn’t be “Percolator,” one of the most striking songs from New York’s glam rock/noise-pop quartet Charly Bliss’s first LP Guppy. “I cry all the time/I think that it’s cool/I’m in touch with my feelings,” frontwoman Eva Hendricks coos in the album’s excellent opening track. Gnarled yet stingingly heartfelt, “Percolator” blooms into a portrait of the exhausted narratives and ideas that surround female-fronted bands and pokes at those tropes with mockery galore: “Don’t you know I aim to please?/I’m everybody’s favorite tease/Put your hand on my knee…” It’s this kidding-not-kidding irony that increasingly defines Guppy’s tracks.
Charly Bliss, above.
Still, even as the level of pop grows as the album plays through, Charly Bliss manage to preserve the intimacy and idiosyncrasies that often comes with more polished bands well into their career. It’s testimony not only to the fact that this is essentially the second time they’ve recorded Guppy (an earlier version produced by Justin Pizzoferrato of Parquet Courts and Speedy Ortiz fame was scrapped), but also to how receptively and thoughtfully all four members play off each other.
Bassist Dan Shure and Drummer Sam Hendricks (Eva’s brother) create one of the most energetic rhythm sections going at the moment, while the conversation between lead guitarist Spencer Fox’s agile fret board work and the rhythm guitar provided by Eva’s jangling chords is particularly essential to their charm. As it does on the caustic, catchy opening verse of “Scared U” (“Forced fun/Ill at ease/All I eat is bread and cheese”), Fox’s guitar mimics Hendricks’ melody with Strokes-like precision and tone, while Hendricks’ own rhythm is able to create the framework, underscoring the words rather than drowning them out.
Charly Bliss wear their love for the 1990s on their torn flannel sleeves, which makes this round of Spot-The-Influence about as challenging as a game of tee-ball: there’s the grungy mysticism of Pavement, the guitar-pop sensibilities of Dinosaur Jr., and of course the deadpan wit of vintage Blur:
“I laughed when your dog died/It is cruel/But it’s true,” Hendricks sings in “DQ” as she attempts to come to terms with her love interest’s attention, “Does he love me most now that his dog is toast?”
But don’t let any of that lead you to think that Charly Bliss are your garden-variety nostalgia-heavy act. Even at the album’s most distortion-caked, there’s a melodic confidence and a baby-eyed clarity about Guppy. They have reverence for their forbearers, sure, but unlike a lot of recent bands exhuming the ghosts of indie rock past, Charly Bliss also have faith in the peculiar personality traits that set them apart from their heroes.
Nicholas Ruggieri is a community writer for Wolf Pack Radio. Interested in contributing? Find out more here.