Tijuana Crime Scene – Change of Venue EP

Tijuana Crime Scene
Change of Venue EP

When a band comes along consisting of members of other bands that you know and adore, you have no real choice but to get excited about it and build up some rather high expectations. Sometimes you are pleasantly pleased with the new combination of old talent, and sometimes you are sadly disappointed. Other times, however, you remain neutral, because the end result is good, but it isn’t great. It doesn’t break your heart in the fact that your once favorite artists seem to be growing old and decrepit, but it falls far short of earning them the status of a new “supergroup.” Such is the case with Tijuana Crime Scene.
The mastermind behind Tijuana Crime Scene is Alex Brahl, who produced The Get Up Kids’ Something To Write Home About and aided TGUK’s Matt Pryor on his solo project, The New Amsterdams. Also making appearances on this album are a slew of experienced musicians, including Jake Cardwell, another member of The New Amsterdams; Robert Pope, also of The Get Up Kids; Jay Russell, who is one quarter of Hot Rod Circuit; and Ed Rose, who has produced and played on all sorts of recordings, from The Get Up Kids to The Anniversary to Ultimate Fakebook and so on. As a fan of any one of these bands is more than likely a fan of several of them, such a roster could easily lift expectations to a height that is difficult to reach.
Since this is only a six-track EP, we may as well take things one song at a time. “Bad Idea” opens things up and quickly lives up to any expectations one may have had for this album. It is the bounciest and most pop-oriented of the six tracks, but it remains somewhat mellow and relaxed. The basic guitar-bass-drum-vocal setup is strengthened by a nifty organ sound, and the track could easily be compared to a softer Get Up Kids track. The problem is that “Bad Idea” raises the bar a bit too high and a bit too quickly. It gets you thinking this is an album that is going to live up to all those expectations you may have had. And then comes “Summer of ’87,” a tune built around a jangling tambourine and a honky-tonk piano, with Brahl’s vocals sounding a bit distorted. The track builds into a full rock song but remains far from spectacular, especially in comparison to the track that preceded it. Then comes “Head of Mine,” a slow dance number with a bit of twang to it, much like the work of The New Amsterdams. Brahl’s vocals stand out here as soothing, and overall it is a lovely track that is not for people who don’t enjoy those sappy “emo” moments, as the vocals and lyrics often border on whiny in this song and others.
“Shoot the Lights Out” is an odd little number, blending an alt-country feel with a high-pitched moog part to create one of the EP’s more rocking tracks. Brahl’s vocals sound a little abrasive here, especially during the layered harmonies of the chorus, or maybe it is just the overall structure of the song, but something is amiss. “Forever Leaving” is a piece comprised of just piano and vocals, and it is a refreshing break from the previous track. The album closes with a song that ties with “Bad Idea” for the best track offered, which is “Assume Everything.” It returns to the full band sound, but with a somber mood about it, and Brahl’s vocals sound crisp and clear once more. What begins with just guitar, organ, and vocals erupts into a rocking track just before it fades out and the whole thing comes to an end.
As you can tell, Brahl and company attempt to cover a considerable amount of ground with Change of Venue, and the result is an album that sounds rather complete for only being six songs in length. The production is consistently good, as it should be considering the people involved with the project, but the end result isn’t so much that of a great new band but rather that of a bunch of extremely talented friends taking time out from their respective full-time gigs to screw around and throw some songs down on tape.