|CD NOW | 4.5.2000|
Papas Fritas' Smooth Edges
The way Tony Goddess of Papas Fritas explains it, he and his bandmates spent more time in the studio talking than actually playing. "We wanted to make sure the record was smooth and mellow, and not governed by adrenaline or excitement," he says. "We made a conscious effort to keep things rhythmically simple this time out and on the smooth side. The best way to do that was to discuss it."
Buildings and Grounds, the band's third full album since coming together in 1995, is sure worth discussing. Goddess, Shivika Asthana, and drummer Keith Gendel met at Tufts University outside of Boston and decided to capitalize on some mutual musical interests. Since then, the band has risen to a place of prominence in indie rock with such albums as its fine self-titled debut and 1997's Helioself. But it's Buildings and Grounds that establishes the trio as a distinctive stylist with a well-defined creative vision, placing the band somewhere between the Beach Boys and the suave French lounge music of Francoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg. "The indie rock thing has a tendency to resuscitate genres, and it drives me nuts," says Goddess. "Everyone these days seems to be buying dead guys' records. We're just trying to take some positive influences and mold them into our own sound."
Few things today sound like the breezy, satisfying, Free Design-style pop of "Girl" or the equally deliberate mood setter "People Say." When the band breaks out of its meticulous arranging, as it does successfully on the rousing "What Am I Supposed to Do?" and the Partridge Family-like "Questions," the material balances perfectly between style and substance. Asthana and Goddess both sing and compose, giving the band added creative dimension, while as a trio, Papas Fritas has never gelled more convincingly.
"Everyone these days seems to be buying dead guys' records. We're justtrying to take some positive influences and mold them into our own sound."
"We wanted this to be a musical album," says Goddess. "We were conscious of making an album that started someplace and ended someplace. It really gave the album a sense of feel."
Though Goddess admits the album is crisply pressed, he won't go so far as to say it's edgeless. "I wasn't simply writing about easy, sing-along type things," he says. "We wanted to emphasize putting our tones on a smooth canvas. The smoother the canvas the more the cracks stand out."
- Bob Gulla