Papas Fritas; Hang Ups | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Papas Fritas; Hang Ups 

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By drilling their 1997 single "Hey Hey You Say" into my head, where it's stayed ever since, and then embarrassing the Cardigans at Metro with their sneaky, surefire dynamic swings, Papas Fritas won me over--I don't just like them, I root for them. The Massachusetts trio's last album, Helioself, was so good that I've given their new Buildings and Grounds (Minty Fresh) one too many second chances already: unfortunately, it still sounds like tuneful but humdrum college pop. Papas Fritas once won points for at least trying to make their wee ditties rock, but here they go for pure insinuating sweetness--and though a couple tracks have worked their way under my skin, most notably a humdinger called "Way You Walk," most just evaporate as soon as the next one starts. On this tour, guitarist, vocalist, and mastermind Tony Goddess, drummer and transcendently ordinary singer Shivika Asthana, and bassist Keith Gendel will be joined by a keyboardist and a second guitarist. The Hang Ups, who open, make music so blithely lovely it's easy to distrust at first, and after 30 or so listens their newest record, Second Story (Restless/Clean), still seems a bit superficial--front man Brian Tighe's lyrics are unambitious, even for cream-puff pop. But I really have played it 30 times, and only the first half dozen were out of professional obligation: Second Story sounds more grounded than 1996's ethereal So We Go, and though Tighe is still worshiping the Kinks, it seems he's been listening to "David Watts" as well as "Waterloo Sunset." The Hang Ups are at their best when he sprinkles pixelated guitar hooks over winning melodies, spiking the gentle music with carefully modulated thrills. Cuts like the buoyant "The Queen" and the title song--which blossoms from strum 'n' mumble into Abbey Road-style pop symphonics, complete with French horn--make the band's expert craftsmanship seem charmingly offhanded. Thursday, April 6, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

Michaelangelo Matos

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Courtney Bonfield.


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