Puncture | 1995

Uttered in a straight-up Bostonian accent, this band's moniker -- "Pop has freed us!" -- becomes a declaration of independence. And from a brilliant pun a concept is born.

Not that Papas Fritas' emancipatory project is a new one; just as, in the late '70s, the Undertones bucked musical and political trends with their relentlessly cheery apolitical pop, this Beantown trio is more than happy to renounce any and all dead weight in the form of angst, apathy, or a plodding beat. In fact, with song titles like "Guys Don't Lie," "Kids Don't Mind," "Holiday," and "My Own Girlfriend," Papas could well be the Undertones' very reincarnation; even the "whoa-ohs" and "na-na-nas" are in place, in all their tone-deaf glory.

Papas Fritas might even have gone their predecessor one better when it comes to blithe optimism: "Lame to Be" takes the "choose life" message to its previously unthinkable limit of earnestness and bounciness. Both on speedy punk songs like "Afterall" and on plinky, tiptoeing songs like "TV Movies," untreated vocals are pushed to the foreground where they waver intrepidly: Tony Goddess's hoarse and airy, Shivika Asthana's wistful and reed-thin. Their sound inspires in the listener a protective, tender sympathy similar to the one evoked by the runt of the litter. But the record has transcendent moments, peaking on the fragile, sly beauty of "Passion Play" and again on "Wildlife," which more aggressively asserts its presence on the pop/rock axis (Cars, anyone?). Papas Fritas have the potential to kill with cuteness, but their unselfconsciousness about being fresh-faced suggests that their revolution has only just begun. -- Sara Manaugh