One of the great indie power pop albums of the '90s, the Blow Pops' second and final album is a bit harder rocking than their psych-influenced debut. Produced by Jeff Murphy of the diehard Illinois power poppers Shoes, American Beauties turns up the distortion pedals just a hair, while also refining the Raspberries-style harmonies of guitarists Mike Jarvis and Tim Buckley and bassist Jack Rice. The results are similar to early Posies, without the production gloss that some felt marred that band's albums.
Jarvis and Buckley's songs are perhaps a tad less experimental than on their debut, 1992's Charmed I'm Sure, but they're also more consistently strong. All 16 tracks are loaded with perky guitar hooks and thrilling harmonies, but where many power pop bands forget to write actual songs to go with those items, the melodies and lyrics here tend to be strong enough to withstand more than casual inspection. A couple of songs, notably "She Don't Need Me Now" and the sluggish power ballad "Love To Tell," are a minute or so too long, but those are minor quibbles. American Beauties is one of the few hour-plus power pop albums that deserves its extended length.
The CD version of American Beauties also includes both sides of the Blow Pops' excellent 1993 single, "My Carrie" and "Bleary Eyes."