ALBUM REVIEW: Charly Bliss - 'Young Enough

I first came to know Charly Bliss through a friend and fellow Weezer fan in the back half of 2017, and I was unquestionably instantly hooked. The sheer melodic nature of their album Guppy, combined with the searing guitars and plain fun lyrics of tracks like ‘Westermarck’ and ‘Glitter’, made for something I knew I would be digesting for years to come. This is why when ‘Capacity’, the lead single from Young Enough, dropped in February, I was taken aback for a moment. This was a track that not only stripped back a lot of the guitars from the debut, but placed a greater focus on a driving groove, as opposed to the relentless drive I had come to know them by. And yet, after a couple of listens, I was instantly a hooked. This was the clear sign of a group willing to grow, and on Young Enough, they’ve grown to a place far beyond their debut.

The most important thing worth noting before one dives into Young Enough is that this is not a light ride. Despite the upbeat songs and sparkling production that fill out most of the record, these songs are undeniably heavy. From tracks like ‘Capacity’ that deal with millennial burnout (I’m at capacity/I’m spilling out of me), the loss of hope in ‘The Truth’ (Kissing babies/I’m alive but I’m dead inside), to the sexual abuse described in ‘Chatroom’ (I was fazed in the spotlight - his word against mine/everybody know you’re the second coming), this is lead singer Eva Hendricks putting her heart and soul on the line for all to see, and one would be hard pressed to say it doesn’t pay off. But where Young Enough truly succeeds is how it uses these topics. ‘Chatroom’ for instance is framed in an instrumental that is irresistible to pogo along to, highlighted by its top-tier “Fuck you” chorus (I’m not gonna take you home, I’m not gonna save you, no), while ‘Bleach’, a track that deals with “trying to hold onto hope […] when the world feels like a political nightmare hell-scape”, rounded out beautifully with the line “Now every day I thank the moon and stars that I was born a girl”.

Not everything about Young Enough comes from this place though. ‘Under You’, placed perfectly in the third track slot, reflects the intensity of Guppy, with an instrumental “So maniacal to play that only [Eva’s] brother Sam could write it”. The track deals with the utter obsession one often has in a partner at the start of a relationship - whether it turns out good or bad - with every line being utterly brilliant, a clear highlight being “I’ll occupy your nation, fool!”, a line I’ve never considered, and yet is accurate beyond belief. Opener ‘Blown to Bits’ also acts as a perfect way of setting the album up, reflecting on life as it stands between the good and bad. Through the lament that “It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits”, the band perfectly builds their sonic palette for the album, opening with a biting synth, before gently introducing Spencer Fox’s guitar, Dan Shure’s bass, and eventually Sam Hendricks’ pounding drums, which then all gives way to the more typical crunchy affair for the bridge. This all come back together with a thick, deep synth bass layer, before dying away into lead single ‘Capacity’.

Arguably, the centerpiece of the album is the title track. While looking back at a relationship, like many of the songs on this album, Eva tells us a story of that first serious love, and those raw and pure teenage emotions. It’s the sort of romance that feels like everything. You are both deeply and completely in love, but you can never get it together to really give each other what you need, and this song is about turning around years later and reflecting upon how important that relationship was in hindsight. As Eva beautifully puts it, “We’re young enough/to believe it should hurt this much”. It’s at this moment you can really see the growth in the band from Guppy, and just how gigantic the songwriting has become. The song builds from a lone guitar and Eva’s unmistakable voice, to something “astronomically huge” that rips right into your heart and takes you back to those long drives home when you first got your license. If you take one track away from this album, this is it.

Between these tracks, there are undeniably more highlights. The 70 second ‘Fighting in the Dark’ is a brief look back at a therapy breakthrough, in which Eva sounds as tender as ever, while the slow burn of ‘Hurt Me’ coming off ‘Chatroom’ is likely to smack anyone to the floor emotionally. Probably the most fun is third single ‘Hard to Believe’, a slice of power pop heaven that anyone who already loved the band is sure to enjoy, despite the tale of trying to escape a failing relationship. Most unique of all is the midtempo ‘Camera’, an interesting look at bank fraud, and how someone could be using your money to create a masterpiece - or they could just have some sick and twisted intentions, but you’ll never truly know.

On Young Enough, Charly Bliss have brought to the table a clear statement - they are not a one trick pony, and that they can indeed grow their sound beyond the crunchy power pop of their debut. With lyrical content as deep as this, and musicianship tighter than ever, this is essential listening for just about anyone, and I know I’ll be playing it a heck of a lot more as the year goes on. Highly recommended.

Frederick French-Pounce hosts Back to Mono on COOL MOVES RADIO.