Pop Has Freed Us
A stellar '90s underground rock trio that garnered posthumous success via a Dentyne Ice commercial -- which cleverly employed their slinky, handclap-driven "Way You Walk" -- Papas Fritas receive their due with this career retrospective that spotlights album standouts, plus nine rarities and a bonus DVD containing three videos. The disc's liner notes reveal that frontman Tony Goddess wanted Papas Fritas "to sound like the Replacements live, and Fleetwood Mac on record." They came pretty close to meeting these twin goals, as borne out by Pop Has Freed Us. The ambitious arrangement to the strings-laced "Passion Play" and the gushing harmonies on "Hey Hey You Say" suggest a low-budget take on the Mac's winsome sound and revealed a band with their sights set beyond basement practice spaces and dingy clubs. The trio's lovably scrappy, pogo-inducing side -- lovingly indebted to Jonathan Richman and the 'Mats -- is represented by hair-flailing numbers like "Smash This World" and "Lame to Be," both offered in alternate versions. But the disc also harbors numerous revelations: The power-pop "Do the Move" proffers Goddess as a next-generation Todd Rundgren; a spare cover of the Mac's "Book of Love" takes on a distinctly Beach Boysish sound; and bassist Keith Gendel's "Vertical Lives" has enough bounce and finger snaps to qualify for Sesame Street. Pop Has Freed Us answers the pun in Papas Fritas's moniker, but it also raises the question: How could these songs not have been Top 40 hits?