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Pop Has Freed Us

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Album Review

Papas Fritas' brand of pop is charming, innocent, and drawn from classic sources as diverse as the Beach Boys, '70s AM radio, Fleetwood Mac, and classic U.S. indie pop. Well, maybe those aren't the most diverse sources, but the group takes them and creates a varied and invigorating sound. Tony Goddess and Shivika Asthana's open-hearted, artless vocals can't help but charm all but the most hard-hearted listeners, and the band's playing is always energetic and full of imagination. Pop Has Freed Us is a career summation that includes eight songs from their three LPs and one EP, as well as nine songs previously not found on any album. There are three tracks from 2000's excellent Buildings and Ground, two each from 1997's Helioself and 1995's Papas Fritas, and the title track from 1996's Passion Play EP. If you program the disc to play just the tracks taken from their records, you might just be stunned at what a consistently wonderful pop group the Fritas are; in fact, the best of these tracks compare well to any band from the '90s or 2000s that had the nerve to play simple pop music. "Passion Play" is a miniature epic brimming with passion and sporting a fittingly dramatic arrangement, "Holiday" is a bouncy, hooky romp, "The Way You Walk" is a sultry ballad that wouldn't sound out of place on Rumours, "Hey Hey You Say" is a song that will stick like glue in your head with it's flypaper chorus and insistent rhythm. Of the non-album tracks, "Do the Move" is the clear diamond in the rough; it bops and swings and sounds like what you wished the '70s sounded like. It is the kind of track that will have even the most jaded music snobs clicking their heels with joy. The rest of the non-LP tracks are winning examples of Papas Fritas' charmingly awkward indie pop as well; "High School Maybe" is a short piano ballad with Goddess singing his aching guts out, "Let's Go Down to the Town Oasis" bounces like a Village Green-era Kinks song, "People Tell Me Not to Worry" is a melancholy, disco-inspired track that finds Goddess' vocals sounding very much like Carl Wilson's from the early '70s. The last track on the collection, the achingly pretty acoustic ballad "Love Just Don't Quit," sums up the bandmembers and their philosophy: love of music, love of each other, love of life and all of its attendant wonder. Papas Fritas is the sound of youth, love, and above all, glorious pop music.


Formed: 1992 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Formed in 1992, pop combo Papas Fritas began as a power trio when two high-school friends from Delaware, guitarist Tony Goddess and drummer Shivika Asthana, met up with bassist Keith Gendel while attending Tufts University in Massachusetts. The three recorded and released four-track albums for fun and performed at parties on and around campus, but never took the group seriously until a tape fell onto the desk of small record label Sunday Driver Records and the label approached Papas Fritas with plans...
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Pop Has Freed Us, Papas Fritas
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