Jason Holstrom The Thieves of Kailua

[Mill Pond; 2007]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: singer-songwriter, tropical bedroom pop
Others: Summer Hymns, Polyphonic Spree, Brian Wilson

Seattle’s Jason Holstrom, a member of the slightly better-known United State of Electronica, brings us The Thieves of Kailua, a kitschy love letter to The Beach Boys at their goofiest and most Hawaiian adulatin’. I’ve never been to Hawaii, and though I’d like to go, I’m pretty skeptical about the quality of an entire record about the island state, based directly on the events of a single trip there.

But hey, why should a trip to Hawaii be any less legit subject matter than love, divorce, growing old, or all the other crap most records are about? After all, The Thieves of Kailua includes many of the same themes; it’s real tropical, too. I suppose the ubiquitous ukulele playing and generally stereotypically “tropical” instrumentation could be perceived as patronizing by natives or those with legit backgrounds in the island’s music. But whatever -- Holstrom is aping The Beach Boys, not “real” Hawaiians anyway. And from a vacation perspective on Hawaii, The Thieves of Kailua is just what you’d expect -- a lot of fun.

Ukes or not, this ain’t Don Ho shit. Opener “Crystal Green” is a gauzy palm-tree swayer, but the title track mixes things up nicely, and instrumental “Return of the Tourist!” is a nice little change-of-pace romper. Unfortunately, the album also has a share of utterly predictable (if sunny) filler, like the record’s middle section from “Under Setting Sun” to “Age is in Ya Head!,” and “Do What Just You Do Me”'s cloying phrasing might have been cute in the ’50s, but today it’s relatively insulting. “Welcome/Clouds Roll In”’s “a-ooh, a-ooh” section might crib a bit too much from The Dave Clark Five’s “Over and Over”

The happy-go-lucky “Hawaii She Calls” picks things up a bit, but the rest of the record can’t capitalize, and the first half of the record’s promise that The Thieves of Kailua might just beat the odds goes unfulfilled. Still, a couple good songs was more than I was expecting from a Hawaii-themed bedroom pop record by a white dude from Seattle.

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