CMJ New Music Report | 1995

Once in a while a few young musicians stick their fingers into a pot housing the tried-and-true ingredients of power pop - crunchy power chords, finger snaps, luscious harmonies, incorrigible melodies - and rearrange them into a new and perfect formula that, played in their energetic hands, sounds as if it had just been invented. On their debut album, Boston-based trio Papas Fritas have locked into a formula so balanced and unpretentious that it's bound to catch many listeners off guard. The album's arrangements, replete with unusually well-thought-out harmonies, are tempered and varied, only occasionally slipping into power-pop abandon, as on the look-Ma-no-hands energy of "Afterall" and the gleeful "Smash This World." More often, the trio fiddles with the basic structure of its songs and presents them in unusual ways, as on Passion Play," which is marked as much by its plucking and swooning strings as by its hummable melody and bouncy rhythm, and the subtle "Explain," which also boasts the telling line, "I know, it's only rock and roll!" While the group reveals its influences openly, nodding to Beantown forerunners the Modern Lovers on "Wildlife" and Paul Westerberg and the Replacements on "Afterall," it doesn't lean so heavily on them that they upstage the band's own creations, which are the clear highlight here. Three examples of the band's songwriting and presentation skills come right in a row: the pauses between the buzzing "Smash This World," the finger-snapping "Lame To Be" and the jangly, driving "Possibilities" are breathless, for both band and listener. Expect more great things of equal, if not greater proportions.