Tijuana Panthers have something new for the California nostalgics. Their surf rock is tinged with just enough garage and sleaze to make for a far sassier listen than anything The Beach Boys ever offered. It comes as no surprise that the Panthers hail from Long Beach and that their beachy vibe that makes for a perfect summer release.
This is a band still relatively fresh off the beach, debuting in 2010 with Max Baker. Semi-Sweet clocks in at under 30 minutes and the result is both fun and forgettable. No song overstays its welcome with an average track length of about two minutes, but this approach to songwriting comes with its downsides. The Panthers never dive headfirst into the Pacific’s waters with a full-on groove. The album actually kicks off with its smallest wave, and one that never quite curls, which only hammers in the fact that they aren’t interested in epics.
Nonetheless, their vintage sound is undeniably appealing. Reminiscent of The Hives, there are rowdy moments and danceable hooks in each song. The first single off the record is “Tony’s Song,” a lively outfit that is synecdochical of Semi-Sweet. The first tidal change comes with “Boardwalk,” a track that is light on the semi and heavier on the sweet.
Perhaps the most down-and-dirty and, therefore, most enjoyable track on the album is “Juvy Jeans.” It’s a simple ode to jeans but speaks on a larger level to the Panthers overall aesthetic. The album closes by returning to one of its Semi-Sweet-est moments with “Boardwalk Reprise,” an only slightly re-contexualized version of the track that appears earlier on the album.
You best divert your eyes and close your ears if you are looking for introspective lyrics or sprawling arrangements, but what TJ Panthers do best is remind us that, sometimes, it’s enough for music to just be fun.