You don't have to look much further than "Mr. Davies," a backhanded tribute to Ray Davies of the Kinks, for proof that the French quartet Tahiti 80 are obsessed with their record collection. "He gave up pop music," sings Xavier Boyer, "to play squash with Ringo Starr / But that does not matter / When you listen to his selected discography." Although only one other tune on the quartet's recent American debut, Puzzle (Minty Fresh), makes a direct reference to a fellow musician--the Irish singer Joe Dolan, in "Hey Joe"--Tahiti 80 wear their influences on their sleeves. Boyer could lead a Zombies cover band with his high, breathy croon, and the album's pastel vocal harmonies could've been lifted from the Left Banke. That said, Puzzle sounds like it could only have been made today: Ivy's Andy Chase produced, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne programmed, and Cardigans producer Tore Johansson mixed. Bassist Pedro Resende and drummer Sylvain Marchand underline Boyer's wispy melodies with a variety of propulsive modern grooves, and on a couple of tunes Boyer even employs that voice-warping effect Daft Punk are so fond of. Lovely string arrangements swell up here and there, and Eric Matthews adds some trumpet and flugelhorn, but you'd never call music this compact and catchy "ork pop." Boyer sings everything in English and sometimes his use of the language comes off clunky or cutesy, but as he puts it in "Yellow Butterfly," "Don't waste your time / Trying to find a meaning / To everything / You might get disappointed." Chicago pop phenoms Frisbie open. Sunday, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Vincent Lignier.