Charlie & the Lesbians – Paper Trail of Happiness

Charlie & the Lesbians
Paper Trail of Happiness
Bottom Shelf Records
February 1, 2019

Charlie & the Lesbians, a quartet consisting of Charlie Hoeben, on vocals, Soesja Hoeben, on drums and backing vocals, Noortje Pullens, on bass, and Mees Welmers on guitar, have released their third studio album. Teaming up with Ernst-Jan van Doorn, of Mozes & the Firstborn, and Patrick Delabie, of Studio 195, it’s no wonder that this double EP exceeds the realm of an exemplary punk album. Paper Trail of Happiness is a past and present journey through all that is (punk) rock.

(c) Maron Stills

With glimpses of glooming guitar riffs that invite comparisons to the age-old Black Sabbath, to the more playful guitar riffs akin to contemporaries like Pig Frenzy, this double EP is a sonic timeline of rock n’ roll.

In comparison to their varying historical sonic approach, the lyrics encapsulated in Paper Trail of Happiness are undeniably contemporary. Whether screaming phrases such as, “I’m losing it,” or reciting softly in spoken word, “crumbling under the weight of life, desperately looking for a way out without ever finding one,” a picture of the perils of everyday life is painted so explicitly, you cannot help but relate in mourning.

Charlie & the Lesbians clearly illustrate the range of anxious emotions catalysed specifically by our generation’s despair with modern society.

While using lyrics and soundscapes to illustrate a lucid image of modern society, it seems that Charlie & the Lesbians’ own ability to see and hear is receding. The irony of this exchange is brought forth as Hoben sings of losing visual and aural clarity in the track ‘Lucid Situations.’

Hoben said he went deaf because he “listened to everyone,” and he forewarns us that lucid situations are what “control the mind.” In other words, don’t let the thoughts of others be the ‘lucid lenses’ you looks through when assessing a situation or those very outside voices will control your reality and mind.

In terms of sight, Hoeben sings that he went blind while “staring at the sun,” feasibly allowing for symbolic comparison to a brightly lit stage. Thus, regardless of which side of the stage one is standing on, be cautious and conscious of staring into or out of that brightly lit stage so as to avoid the risk of losing your ability to see what is real.

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(c) Aniek van Maaren

Taking into account the encapsulated bleak panorama of modernity, there are inevitable and understandable shifts between anger and sadness throughout this EP. Anger noticeably recedes in ‘The Light it Dies a Lonesome Death,’ leaving a sense of melancholia.

To trudge along alone in this grim world, dragging itself through the city in turmoil, melancholia notices the differences between each thumping footstep.

“Candles flicker, candles flicker, candles are flickering. The light it dies a lonesome death.” One candle, one person flickers in exhaustion, then another and another, an array of them are flickering, until one light does in fact go out.

With this track already having reached the top of the band’s Spotify ‘popular section,’ it seems as though Charlie & the Lesbians are well aware of how our generation feels. Having almost premeditated the role of the masses within these lyrics.

The song’s title is not only engendered through its lyrics or through its prophetic popularity, ‘The Light it Dies a Lonesome Death’ has a guitar riff so guttural that it feels as though one has been stabbed. With the listener’s intestines then slowly being drained from their core with each and every repetition of the riff, leaving only a lifeless body behind. Thus the listener becomes the light.

I think it’s time for a vacation…

– Megan Phipps