Tijuana Panthers

Wayne Interest

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Hailing from Long Beach, California, Tijuana Panthers conjure up a lo-fi cloud of surf guitar, garage rock melodies, and punk rock minimalism on their third full-length album, 2014's Wayne Interest, that rare album that makes a virtue of the fact it sounds as if it was recorded in someone's acoustically untreated basement. Anyone who has heard enough D.I.Y. garage and surf singles from the '60s will recognize the production style Richard Swift has applied to this material, although it was probably achieved at significantly greater expense than the long lost bands these folks are emulating. Despite the echoey, slightly smeary audio, Chad Wachtel's reverb-laden guitar sounds authentic and solidly rockin', while bassist Daniel Michicoff and drummer Phil Shaheen generate a powerful backbeat shuffle behind these tunes, which are often informed by a tongue-in-cheek wit as these guys joyously anticipate being fired, recall the glories of radio in 1989, and ponder the joys and terrors of visiting the doughnut shop (though the muddy vocal mix doesn't make the lyrical messages especially clear). Tijuana Panthers are capable of taking on something darker, as "Torpedo" and "Car Crash" demonstrate, but this band honestly seems to be more about sound than messages here, and the sound is solid and effective enough that Wayne Interest works. Of course, the album would work even better if the sounds were matched with stronger melodies, as Tijuana Panthers have a hard time coming up with tunes quite as memorable as their guitar tones. At their best, Tijuana Panthers come up with a sound rough and scrappy enough that it gestures strongly to the past without sounding like an exercise in misplaced nostalgia, but the songs aren't as satisfying as one might hope, and it's hard not to hope these guys can rein in a more distinctive songwriter before making album number four.

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