Making a really great mixed drink is a lot like making a really great power-pop record. They both require a precise balance between irresistible sweetness and tonic bite; too much of one is either too saccharine or too bitter for consumption.
However, finding that middle ground results in a concoction you can keep coming back to over and over again, each time increasing in pleasurability. Charly Bliss didn’t risk eyeballing their debut record Guppy; they created and committed to a recipe, carefully measuring out each ingredient. The Brooklyn quartet’s end product is a truly scrumptious, intoxicating cocktail of earworm pop-punk, sharp indie rock and glistening power-pop that’s fit to be served to the masses.
The band stick to a familiar formula on here, but compared to the no-frills approach of contemporaries like Diet Cig, PWR BTTM and Dude York–the three of whom have, or are about to put out records this year within the now-trendy lo-fi idiom of power-pop–Charly Bliss deliver momentous choruses and crunchy riffs through a shamelessly glitzy filter. Their melodies are bolstered by heavenly, harmonious “ah-ah’s” that would be radio ready in a perfect world where rock still topped the charts. However, although these 10 little morsels are filled with candied synths and sugar-coated singalongs, these songs aren’t merely a means to a temporary rush and an inevitable crash.
There are some hefty guitar solos, clever lyrical narratives and acute songwriting techniques all throughout this record that exhibits an attention to detail that other bands of their ilk simply don’t have. Charly Bliss took roughly three years to roll this thing out (apparently scrapping an album’s worth of material and starting from scratch halfway through the process) and miraculously held over their burgeoning audience with only a three-song debut EP (2014’s Soft Serve), but Guppy’s payoff is grand.
Tracks like “Percolator,” “Gatorade” and “Glitter” burst with bubbly, exhilarating performances and self-aware lines like, “am I the best?/or just the first person to say yes?” that are built for belting along to. However, it’s the little things like the added layer of distortion during the final chorus of “Black Hole” and the octave jump at the end of “Scare U” that are the most addicting, as well as the keenest displays of songwriting prowess. Most of this record blows by at a careening pace, but they do it in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming or repetitive. They know when to program a drum intro or rip into a Rozwell Kid-esque solo for a necessary, seamless changeup. Their expertise culminates spectacularly within the closing track “Julia,” as its chugging riff and certifiably soaring chorus are a perfectly-timed climax to an altogether titillating sonic experience.
It’d be difficult to fathom a power-pop record overshadowing Guppy at any point this year. Charly Bliss do just about everything right on here.