Power of Pop | March 2000

As a singer-songwriter-musician, I pride myself at being self-indulgent about my art. I follow my muse wherever it damn well leads me. However, as a pop journalist, it is a different ball game altogether. Objectivity and responsibility get into the equation, I need to take into consideration the magazine I am writing for and even sometimes the kind folks who sent me their CDs.

Occasionally, I feel a necessity to put these constraints behind and just go wild. Well, I've got the new Papas Fritas' album Buildings And Grounds on my mind right now and I have to say that it contains absolutely, undeniably and irresistibly gorgeously beautiful POP, y'know the kind that creates an unhealthy obsessive desire to listen to it incessantly - over and over and over again!


However, before all that, a history lesson...

Papas Fritas was formed in 1992 with the purpose of delivering "catchy, honest pop music that creates a feeling of euphoria in humans." The band consists of Tony Goddess (guitar, vocals), Keith Gendel (bass, vocals) and Shivika Asthana (drums, vocals). In 1994, Minty Fresh Records signed Papas Fritas and the trio built an 8-track studio at home. The result, after nearly 6 months toiling in a cramped basement space was the eponymous debut, released in October 1995. In 1996, the trio relocated their home-studio to a rustic old school house and dubbed it The Columnated Ruins (those who catch the Beach Boys reference deserve a big smile) and recorded the sophomore effort Helioself. Which brings us roughly up to date.

Now, I have always maintained that pop music is but a tool of expression and that you still require a master artisan to produce a work of art. Papas Fritas personify this truth perfectly. It is perhaps significant that they have mentioned the likes of The Flaming Lips, The Eels, Blur and The Hang Ups in the liner notes. These bands, like Papas Fritas, are distinguished for their approach to pop.

Deconstructing classic pop influences (the usual suspects - Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, Todd Rundgren, Jimmy Webb, Phil Spector, Glen Campbell, Smokey Robinson and well, Lennon-McCartney) and employing diverse styles to enhance the value of the material, Papas Fritas have delivered a pop magnum opus.

Tracks like the child-like Girl, the infectious People Say, the lounge-like Far From An Answer, the poignant It's Over Now, the hopelessly jaunty Questions, the countrified Lost in a Dream and the disco-inflected Way You Walk bear testimony to the eclectic strength in depth of Papas Fritas' talent and craft.

It would be difficult, nay impossible, for pure pop fans not to embrace Building And Grounds warmly like an old friend and well, I just come out and say it - this album is essential listening for anyone who appreciates good pop music. (9)