I'm going to be honest: I was never a huge fan of Tsunami Bomb. I liked the band as people and supported them as a musical venture mainly because they were so passionate and heartfelt about their music. Hearing all sorts of crazy stories about the band's near-breakup during the recording of The Ultimate Escape then suffering the scorn and abandonment of many diehard fans simply because of a member shift only made me feel more for the band's plight, although they still didn't find their way inside their stereo very often. Frankly, the songs were just a bit too one-sided and predictable for me.
But then The Definitive Act is recorded, and in a split second I've gone from casual fan of the group to championing them from every rooftop imaginable. Why? Simply put, this album is fantastic. You don't hear punk rock records this good very often anymore.
The Definitive Act is eerie in its lyrical foreshadowing - "4 Robots And An Evil Scientist," written about their previous recording experience, could easily be directed towards their record label for withholding the record due to not hearing a "hit." The tumultuous album closer, "Jigsaw," ends with over two minutes of the band musically collapsing in on themselves, through pounding drums and slicing guitar squeals. You can almost hear the desperation in the band's sound, which is creepy because at the time of recording, nothing truly bad had happened regarding the label.
Frontwoman Agent M's lyrics do nothing to hurt the album's dark vibe, either; she's obviously spent a few hundred hours studying Skibology 101; "Dawn On A Funeral Day" is about being buried alive (emotionally as well as physically), and numerous references to death and violence crop up throughout the disc's brief 36-minute playing time (unfortunately, lines about drinking are pretty much nonexistant -- we'll have to wait until M signs up for Advanced Trionomics for that one). But even stranger still is how this band can absolutely rip through songs rife with negative energy, yet still contribute "Negative One To Ten," the happiest song about how great music is that Andrew WK never wrote. This dichotomy only furthers Tsunami Bomb's fragmented band vision; are they punk or pop; hardcore or indie; sing-along or sit-and-mope? The band lays out convincing arguments for all of the above with The Definitive Act, making one of the most elaborate punk albums this year.
The only true frustration about the album is just how mishandled it was by their label, who forced the disc to be remixed -- by two different producers. As such, seven of the album's 12 tracks were remixed by Greg Koller, and sound phenomenonal (for those keeping track, the songs in question are 1-4, 7, 8 and 12). These songs literally leap out of your stereo; it's nearly impossible to listen to "Being Alright" or the gang-vocal-heavy "Safety Song" without getting physically excited. Conversely, the remaining five tracks remixed by Sergio Chavez sound awful. Chavez takes incredibly powerful songs such as "I Bought You" and sucks all the life out of them with the aural equivelent of nu-metal posturing. As such, the album flip-flops back and forth, making for an ultimately frustrating and fragmented listen. But, considering Tsunami Bomb's history, fragmentation doesn't seem all that wrong.
So basically, with The Definitive Act, you have a band who has gone through the ringer and then some over the past two years, all the while trying to keep their chins up and their heads above water when everything else seemed to be going wrong. As such, you have four musicians who have all improved tremendously at their craft individually, from M's earth-shattering yells ("5150" and "4 Robots And An Evil Scientist") to Mike Griffen's buzzsaw guitar licks and gut-wrenching backing screams to the whole band's incredible sense of melody and balladry on "A Lonely Chord." In short, this record is something I don't think anyone expected from this NorCal quartet, but here's to hoping they can keep it going until record number three. As it stands, we definitely have a winner on our hands.
Dawn On A Funeral Day
Safety Song [clip]