Austin Chronicle | March 10, 2000

Buildings and Grounds Review

The mighty triumvirate of indie rock -- to be really, really good, really, really smart, and really really humble -- is such a sweet thing to find in one band these days. The subtle brilliance of Boston-baked Papas Fritas shines through on this, their third CD for Chicago-based Minty Fresh. Their last full-lengther, Helioself -- named for a recording by Sun Ra that he thought so beautiful, so perfect, he sealed away for eternity -- may have been lofty in the moniker department but lived up to the band's reputation for solid, driving, hook-laden boy/girl pop. On Building and Grounds, named for a landscaping firm (humble!) for which singer/guitarist Tony Goddess and bass player/transplanted Texan Keith Grendel worked, the band ventures into, conquers, and masters an impossible array of pop genres, including crooner standard ("It's Over Now"), early-Seventies Small Faces/Beach Boy-inspired TV theme ("Questions"), Fleetwood Mac ("I Believe in Fate"), and that interesting period where soul-disco became the adult contemporary of its day ("Far From an Answer"). The arrangements are particularly grin-inducing, with their headphone-ready little tweaks and snippets of synthesized smarts and fleshy string flourishes. Despite the one-genre-per-song mission of the disc, all the songs are seemingly attached by the thread of what seems to be a relationship that's headed south if not already totally antipodean. A concept album perhaps? Vocalist Goddess and goddess vocalist/drummer Shivika Asthana even whip out a "Don't You Want Me Baby?" trade-off on the danciest of these delicate gems, "Way You Walk." Papas Fritas. "Pop has freed us."

- Kate X Messer