Buildings And Grounds

Papas Fritas

Minty Fresh Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/24/2000

Papas Fritas is an indie rock band hailing from Boston. They derive their name from the Spanish term for fried potatoes. And if that seems like a weird name to give a band, it is actually a play on words. Their publishing company is called Pop Has Freed Us. Get it? And it is that kind of cleverness that distinguishes their new CD, Buildings And Grounds, from the rest of the indie rock pack.

The music on Buildings And Grounds ranges from quirky (but always catchy) pop ditties to mellow and reflective ballads. The mood of the song often depends on who sang and wrote the song. Guitarist Tony Goddess' songs lean more toward the former, while drummer Shivika Asthana's songs are more of the latter. Like the Beatles Lennon and McCartney, the differences in approach and attitude make for an interesting team.

However, that said, also like Lennon and McCartney, they do not always follow such stereotypes. For starters, Goddess starts the CD with the ballad "Girl" (not the Beatles song). His plaintiff vocal and gentle acoustic guitar playing are as tender as it gets. It's an odd song to start the CD but it works.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Asthana pipes in on the second song, "People Say". Since Papas Fritas has both male and female lead vocalists, people are bound to think of Fleetwood Mac, and this song does recall a typical late period Christine McVie midtempo ballad. The song has a very breezy arrangement which is impressive as this CD is a self-produced effort.

The third song "Way You Walk" sounds like a slightly jazzier rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" with Goddess and Asthana's singing a conversation about whether she is faithful to him. This clever song has a great beat and probably would have been a hit in the mid-80's. The smooth jazz side of Papas Fritas appears occasionally on Buildings And Grounds. The mellow sounds of "Far From An Answer" and "I Believe In Fate" would not be out of place on a smooth jazz station.

However, not all of Papas Fritas' songs are as radio ready. "Questions" sounds like something from the 60's pop band, the Association, but as cute as a button as this song sounds, the lyrics are quite the opposite with lyrics like "Got bit in the ass by a tiger in the zoo/ and when you got home you just passed out in the kitchen."

If the rest of the songs are not as weird as that one, they have their quirks. There's the Squeeze-influenced story song "Another Day", with an interesting kinetic keyboard/percussion backing that moves the song along nicely. In a more rock vein, albeit a slightly off-center new wave rock vein, is "What Am I Supposed To Do?". These two songs certainly are a highlight on Buildings And Grounds.

Bassist Keith Gendel contributes the jaunty and strange singalong "Vertical Lives" which I dare you to try not to sing along to it. There are nice, clever lyrics on this one. Rounding out the set, the remainder of Asthana's songs are more straightforward but nice andpoppy. "Beside You" and "I'll Be Gone" are solid melodic songs not unlike a cross between Lesley Gore and the Bangles.

It is the last song on Builidings And Grounds that really resonates. The country-tinged "Lost In A Dream". Papas Fritas surprisingly understand the emotional tug needed for country while writing a song that is completely original. The song is about someone who thinks he has lost everything, but his wife/mate wakes him up to tell him it's only a dream and everything is all right. I love CD's that have a happy ending.

Indie rock CDs, like low budget movies, are very hit and miss, but when they do hit, it's out of the park. Papas Fritas' Buildings And Grounds is that kind of a hit. It might take a few listens to really enjoy the pleasures, but doing so will make you appreciate that this band has a strong foundation.

Rating: A-

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© 2000 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Minty Fresh Records, and is used for informational purposes only.