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Tahiti 80

WALLPAPER FOR THE SOUL (Minty Fresh) • Tahiti 80

Don't be fooled by the title: Wallpaper For The Soul isn't meant to blend innocuously into the background (though the opening, title track is a soft, dreamy personal anthem in the spirit of the Beach Boys' "Surf's Up"). Quite the opposite, in fact. This music gets right up in your face, demanding that you drop your guard and just go with it! It's really quite saucy or cheesy--and what appropriate descriptions those are for music by a Parisian combo!

How saucy/cheesy? Well, put it this way: in order to embrace this music, you've gotta be willing to admit that disco does NOT suck (not ALL disco, anyway), and that there is, in fact, NOTHING wrong with wanting to fill the world with silly love songs. Tracks like "1,000 Times" and "Get Yourself Together" are ideal for boogie nights, with sweeping strings, punctuating horns, and percolating rhythms. But just when you feel the need to flee before somebody forces you into a white disco suit a la John Travolta's in Saturday Night Fever, sweet hooks and vocals kick in and start eating away at your defenses. Like post-Beatles' Paul McCartney, Tahiti 80 frontman Xavier Boyer and company conjure up a joie de vivre that's far from deep but c'est magnifique. And just what IS wrong with that, I'd like to know?

Okay, if your friends are aghast when you play them these tracks, skip further into the record for "Happy End" and "Memories of the Past," beautiful ballads that sound like long lost Todd Rundgren outtakes from his early 70s heyday. Hearing them will make you wonder how Tahiti 80 might benefit from hiring Todd to produce their next album--and how Todd, who's gotten too sucked in by technology over the past several years, might benefit even more from working with these poppy Parisians!

Bottom line: this second Tahiti 80 disc is a guilty pleasure--so guilty that I had to postpone final judgement for weeks and gradually let my guard down before I could cop to how much I really enjoy it! Even now, I expect to raise my friends' eyebrows when I finally find the courage to play it for them. But once they hear it, they're liable to keep coming back to it, as I did. Like bearnaise sauce or a fine Camembert cheese, Wallpaper For The Soul is an acquired taste that may take a little time to cultivate but is worth the effort!  • Barry Gutman

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