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Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family

Good Children Go to Heaven

(Third Side; US: 23 Mar 2010; UK: 12 May 2008)

Good Children Go to Heaven has a song early on called “That Song”. Along with front man David Sztanke and his expansive band, the song features vocals from TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. It is, far and away, the best track on the album. Adebimpe’s voice coils it’s way into the murky haze of the track, and plays nicely off Sztanke’s honeyed voice and—most important of all—it gives the song an affecting heft.


The trouble with the beautiful weight of that song is that it points out what’s missing on much of the record as a whole. Sztanke and his crew have created a catchy pop record on Good Children Go to Heaven to be sure, but it is one that rests its weight on the wrong elements. The bouncy piano licks and flute can act as nice beds on, say, the summery opener “1973”, but instead they end up being featured. The trouble with that, which only becomes evident when it occurs over and over again, is that the rhythm section is constantly given short shrift. So while they take their manic pop cues from the likes of the Beatles and, in some cases, the Flaming Lips, Sztanke and his company often shy away from given these songs a thudding pulse.


Some songs—“1973” and the extended version of “Brooklyn” in particular—are strong enough to push through it. But the most interesting moments, like “That Song” and the fuzzy, off-kilter guitars of “When I Speak” are too few on this record. It’s a disc that shows a lot of promise, to be sure, but Tahiti Boy and company should work on tying some of these floating songs down a bit going forward.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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