Singer/guitarist Mike Jarvis — a former road member of the group Green — and one Tim Buckley front this nifty Milwaukee power pop quartet. Recreating a British Invasion aura with echoed Hollies-like harmonies over chiming guitar strums, the Blow Pops bring a fresh breeze of innocence to solidly tuneful girl-titled (and girl-related) songs on Charmed I’m Sure. The simply produced album’s census includes “Wake Up Mary,” “I Know Nancy,” “Stiff Priscilla” and “Martha’s Mourning Morning.” It also contains a sterling cover of the Who’s challenging “I Can’t Reach You” and an ambitious ten-minute song cycle (“Under the Big Top”) about a circus, which gets off to a fine start but makes an abrupt exit. Unpretentious, enthusiastic, skilled and unfailingly pleasant, the Blow Pops make their first impression a good one.
American Beauties‘ title reflects a salutary stylistic relocation from the debut’s prevailing Anglophilia; with producer Jeff Murphy of Shoes burnishing the sound to a glistening brightness, the band plays taut guitar-pop with increased force and confidence and less of an audible debt to swingin’ England. That AM radio of the ’60s remains the Blow Pops’ touchstone makes a certain British accent unavoidable (“Without Reason” sounds like an outtake from The Rutles), but this change — more of a course correction than a turnaround — moves the group forward, sacrificing nothing in the process. The best tune on this long album (the CD of which adds two bonus tracks from a single) is “Halloween,” while the sharpest tribute is the pointedly Green-like “All Night Long.”