tockbrokers in San Francisco love Tahiti 80. An analyst at a downtown boutique securities firm claims that the traders have been almost exclusively bumping the Parisian band’s latest, Fosbury, on the trading floors during working hours. Impressive, considering the record is only recently available in the States. This friendly banker also intimated that in a striking show of non-competitiveness, seventy-five bankers from multiple firms went in together for tickets for Tahiti 80’s recent show at the tiny Café du Nord. Judging by the aggressive buy-sell types cheering at singer Xavier Boyer’s falsetto choruses, the majority of the crowd indeed must have had some experience on the trading floor. Most of the I-banking crowd stayed to sing along late into the night, the next morning’s opening bell be damned.
That’s just the sort of reaction that Fosbury gets out of people. A notable departure from previous works, the newest release from Tahiti 80 tempers the sometimes angsty French pop of Puzzle and Wallpaper for the Soul with peppy synths, neo-soul, and disco beats. In fact, Fosbury seems almost a direct response to Puzzle’s sometimes non-committal pop idolatry. No, this latest album is not a groundbreaking work by any means. But Xavier & Co. have adopted an economical approach, smartly distilling the unique elements adored by their varied fan-base into a party record.
For this stylish Parisian pop group, unexpected pockets of enthusiasm have popped up everywhere. They’re big in Japan, for instance, and had a track licensed for a recent Saturn commercial. But it’s telling that Fosbury is only now seeing a U.S. street date over a year after its international release. While this plucky group of mostly-Frenchmen (bassist Pedro is Portuguese) has enjoyed moderate success in the States, they’re still a nice concern. They’ve missed out on mainstream U.S. radio despite a number of memorable singles on previous albums Puzzle and Wallpaper for the Soul, as well as 2004’s mini-album A Piece of Sunshine. As with Phoenix, a kindred French spirit, Tahiti 80 has a number of speculators scratching their heads wondering why their stock isn’t going through the roof.
Maybe this is why the group has ditched the voulez vous coucher of their previous work for this naive foray into R&B and self-styled “pop-and-groove” music. The result is catchy enough, with Mellotrons warbling on top of 100 BPM drumbeats, a smattering of samples, and a reduction of the Bee-Gees-meets-Bacharach horn-n-string arrangements from Wallpaper for the Soul.
It hasn’t taken a re-organization on the songwriting level to get to Fosbury. The band offshored the sound engineering to knob-twiddlers for Outkast and N.E.R.D. (Neal Pogue and Serban Ghenea, respectively), who focused on percussive elements during the mixing process. So while the band’s stylistic Todd Rundgrenisms are still apparent, a number of tracks have beefed-up beats (“Big Day,” “Here Comes”). There’s even a little Punjab MC riff on single “Changes.” Sure, there’s still a lotta love for Puzzle and Wallpaper for the Soul here, but where those tracks were sometimes lost in messy whitewashes of horns and falsettos, almost every track on Fosbury is varied, peppy, and patient.
In the end, the world’s probably never going to undergo a Tahiti 80 revolution. The aforementioned San Francisco yupsters have joined an aggressive and idealistic constituency of the Rouen quartet, and they’ll continue to pass along the CD-Rs, head to the little clubs en masse, and work late hours to Fosbury. Tahiti 80 thrives on the zeal of such devoted enthusiasts, and to return on their fans’ investment, they’ve made Fosbury into a big ol’ party that just keeps paying off.