Some music fans consider a surf guitar to be gimmick to be experienced seasonally and regionally, or as background to certain film or TV presentations. I feel sorry for such narrow-minded souls. My view is that surf guitar is one of the most exciting presentations of rock music, whether as an instrumental jam (The Ventures), with female vocals (La Luz), combined with garage rock (Cool Ghouls) or as the base for Dick Dale's entire, wonderful, career. It is the Sriracha of guitar music. So, with that settled, we move on to our review to kick off the weekend.
With a surf guitar and pulsing garage-punk heart, Southern California's Tijuana Panthers seasons the mix with some jangle and retro pop. There is plenty of reverb, and the trio trades lead vocals duty. I suppose it could have been a train wreck ... err, wipe out -- I can't even consistently make a good sandwich with that many ingredients. But, in fact, Semi-Sweet has raced its way to prominent spot on my most often played albums for May and June 2013. Given its summery sound and jaunty appeal, it likely is in for a long stay on my playlist.
The album begins in the garage rock mode with "Above Your Means". The following track, "Tony's Song" is more powerpop, with a bit of surf guitar in the foundation. In addition to being a good song, the video gives us a story with a sword fight. I love sword fights!
"Wall Walker" steers us back into the garage/surf territory, where we more or less stay for the remainder of Semi-Sweet. An excellent example is track four, "Boardwalk", which provides a touch of doo wop vocals over a mid-tempo surf arrangement. Summer songs don't get much better than this. And the band knows when they have a good thing, as they reprise the song as the album closer. That isn't lazy, it is a killer smart final impression.
The songs are good, and all are home grown but for an excellent cover the The Nerves "One Way Ticket". But whether jangle popping or punk garaging, the sincerity and passion share the limelight with the melody and hooks. The title is Semi-Sweet, but having it in your record collection is totally sweet.
Tijuana Panthers are Chad Wachtel (vocals, guitar), Daniel Michicoff (vocals, bass) and Phil Shaheen (vocals, drums), and they are from Long Beach, California. The band was formed in 2006. Semi-Sweet, their sophomore album, was released on May 28 via Innovative Leisure.
Twitter ( @TijuanaPanthers )