Brakes' terrific debut album, Give Blood, sounded exactly like what a band of refugees from disparate UK rock acts—mutually inspired by Roxy Music, Descendents, Trio, and The Flying Burrito Brothers—would kick out in a marathon one-week recording session. The follow-up The Beatific Visions (credited to "brakesbrakesbrakes" in the U.S.) is more focused, emphasizing the band's pop-punk and roots-rock sides in songs that are simultaneously muscular and wide-open.
The record opens somewhat deceptively with "Hold Me In The River," a giddy, chunky guitar anthem in the spirit of The Undertones and Wreckless Eric, complete with British accent and ray-gun riff. The rest of The Beatific Visions emphasizes roadhouse kick and yelp, with lots of friendly backbeat and breath-catching acoustic interludes. It's the best possible kind of casual, jumping from the Reigning Sound-style dance craze "Spring Chicken" to the anti-war surf-punk rant "Porcupine Or Pineapple," while finding space amid the throwaways for dreamy mid-tempo ballads like the title track, which provides enough winsome melody and heart-stoppingly beautiful bridges to give all the brattier songs context. This album is a full-service entertainment machine.