Music Wire | 1995

The old adage that family businesses flounder in the third generation applies to a lot of rock and roll today. The Velvet Underground seeps through the Modern Lovers to silly boys who can't pull off Jonathan's naif-with-a-guitar shtick. And let's ignore for now the inevitable third generation punk mess that will mark (or mar) the next millennium.

In the family tree of power pop, Papas Fritas stand as third generation heirs to Big Star and then the Replacements . If that were all there is to Papas Fritas, you wouldn't be reading this now. But the suburban Boston band is some sort of multi-strain replicant, with evidence of every strain in pop music from the Stones to the Ramones , girl groups and grunge vintage Neil Young -style, kids' music and theme songs, Paul McCartney , Brian Wilson and even Weezer . Nothing is off-limits: one song sneaks in the line "It's only rock and roll," another "Where'd you get those eyes?"

With 13 songs in 36 minutes, Papas Fritas is more to the point than most bands, but they manage to pack in a double disc worth of gummy hooks, bubbly,quicksilver melodies and lyrics with built-in winks. Even the song titles could be punning references to other music by everyone from the Cure to the Who . The mix of cribbed and original ideas, inbred rhythms and pure inspiration ricochet around on vocals by all three band members, with Tony Goddess and Keith Grendel coming on nervy and sweet, respectively, and Shivika Asthana doing her Boston best to help me forget the Blake Babies .

"Possibilities" would be the soundtrack theme song to a Friends that was about actual people, with conflicted vegetarians worrying about a recurring obsession with getting to Newark.

The Replacements' "Kids Don't Follow" is reborn as "Kids Don't Mind," a 51-second salute to open ears and innocence. "My Own Girlfriend" sounds more like a lost Smile demo than anything tucked away in a vault. Songs about parking lots, made for TV movies, buying records and, natch, girlfrens, leap out of an ultra-clean recording that retains many of the charms of the four-track nation, including Goddess' lip-smacking on "TV Movies," jumpy cymbal crashes, and a tentative "That was good" at the end of the Ramones crunch of the closing "Afterall."

For fans of this sort of thing, it sounds like your entire record collection recorded by your best friend's great band. How can you beat that?

Ed Hewitt