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Tahiti 80 - Wallpaper for the Soul

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Artist: Tahiti 80

Album: Wallpaper for the Soul

Label: Minty Fresh

Review date: Feb. 10, 2003

Artificial Nostalgia

Tahiti 80 is another one of these kitsch pop groups that “tongue-and-cheek” steal from all styles. And by all styles I mean sweet pop and foot stompers from the past decades. Tahiti's been around a little longer than many of the recent proponents of this neo-Stereolab off-shoot frenzy. And as the album pronounces, this is Wallpaper For the Soul: non-offensive and cuddly sweet like a Carpenters' tune, only here masked in disco heat and string-assisted analog backing.

Tahiti 80 still kicks the ass of many of its twee peers. Combinations of ambient noises, warmed ’70s organ tones, and a lyrical delivery that's bittersweet make many of these songs cruise by with an individuality lacking from many projects. "1,000 Times" gets down to business with disco strings and some light soul back; a moog-driven number with a little funk. Inspiration is masked behind distortion, keeping the quiet cool of Tahiti 80's style in tact.

"Separate Ways" has a more DJ Me DJ You feel. Mod-pop guitars bounce along to a slightly soul-tinged number with moments of solitary pysch-reverb revealing a chilled world underneath the upbeat. "Get Yourself Together" is a more straight ahead indie-pop number. An average guitar-twisted ditty with a little keyboard and horns thrown in to give it color. "The Other Side," begins ambient, then picks up with epic strings and then looses itself in a brooding bass line occasionally sputtering back into ambience before ending out with horn stabs. "Fun Fair" picks up the fun – I love the organ - and when it breaks into a whimsical collage of electronics, it just gets better. "Soul Deep," is surprisingly not a cover of Alex Chilton's classic Boxtops number. Like the The Replacements, it's just another homage. A good tune, but I'll stick with the original. Keeping with the psych-soul vibe in this album a Boxtops reference was unavoidable.

The last four tracks failed to really impress me. "Memories of the Past," has a Scott Walker blossom of space-age pop, but doesn't really feel like an effective ending to the album. A little orchestration comes in as the secret track, a remix of the title track.

What's wrong with these types of albums is that their makers fill every track so full, they lose any identity. Stereolab is able to throw in ten thousand influences per song, but their ability to drop an idea and move onto another is what's lacking from Tahiti 80. The kitsch seems more important than the music here. It's cool to hear all this stuff put together in one package, but it's so smothered in nostalgia and cheekiness that the predictable analog incidents that keep the tracks from sounding repetitive seem clichéd. If you're going to revisit soft-rock and disco, you should at least bring something new to the table aside from a post-ironic camp-out. Wallpaper for the Soul could have been pieced together from samples of yesteryear.

By Andrew Jones

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