Tijuana Panthers have a style that's simple enough that there's only so many ways you can bend it around, which is not a bad thing. Their mix of surf-adjacent guitars, garage-informed melodies, dryly witty lyrics, and punky sass is fun, full-bodied, and to the point, and it made for solid entertainment on albums like 2015's Wayne Interest and 2015's Poster. After a recording layoff of three years, the band's fifth full-length album, 2019's Carpet Denim, shows the musicians have been working on ways to chop and channel their music, and they've produced an album that shows they've upped their game in the process. Carpet Denim documents a group that's tighter and more muscular than Tijuana Panthers were in their early years, and the performances find the trio in fine fettle, with Chad Wachtel's guitar gaining new texture and a more compelling melodic sense, while Daniel Michicoff's bass and Phil Shaheen's drumming boast a bit more color and imagination than they did in the past. The poppy tunefulness and chiming guitar patterns of "I Don't Mind" and the squealing synthesizers of "Generation Singular" suggest these guys have been crate digging for vintage new wave records of the '70s and '80s, and there's an evocative grace to the melody of "TV People" that's smooth but still speaks of a rock & roll sensibility. Though "Little Pamplemousse" is playful bordering on silly, the fact is the group can actually write about the joys of parenthood with heart and soul, which is not something you might have expected from this band when they first came on the scene. Carpet Denim doesn't represent a game-changing new direction for Tijuana Panthers, but they've clearly become a better and smarter group without losing their energy or their joy, and this is their strongest album to date.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming