Ten years too late
Tsunami Bomb, formed in 1998 by bass player Dominic Davi, is finally back. Back in the day, they could hold their own against any of the pop-punk bands from that era, but even with the glowing reviews they received from the alternative music press, they never seemed to get the recognition they deserved. They broke up in 2005 after the release of their sophomore album, The Definitive Act. Tsunami Bomb officially reunited in 2015 and they’ve been going strong ever since. Despite being signed to Alternative Tentacles, they bear little resemblance to fellow heavyweight label mates like Leftover Crack, NoMeansNo, Unsane or the legendary Dead Kennedys. Even though they originated in North California, Tsunami Bomb’s sound was heavily indebted to SoCal skate punk. That being said, their new album, The Spine That Binds, has more in common with Paramore than The Offspring.
The opening track, “Tidal,” is a fantastic way to reintroduce the band after its 15-year hiatus. All of the things that made this band so endearing are front and center: the blistering guitar leads, the sickly sweet melodies, the punchy bassline, it’s all there. Newcomer Kate Jacobi does a fantastic job filling the shoes of their former singer, Emily Whitehurst; her soaring vocals on the track “Sinkhole” are one of the highlights of the album. The synth leads all over this album are a nice touch, but most notably on track two, “Naysayers.”
For all its strengths, the album has just as many drawbacks. Even the synths and operatic vocals can’t distract from the stale chord progressions. The vocal melodies sound a little too familiar, and more in line with late-00s emo-pop than late-90s pop-punk. Their gratuitous use of anthemic “woah-oh” sports chants becomes grating after a point and makes it hard to distinguish the songs from one another.
The Spine That Binds is a fine album. But that’s kind of the issue; it’s fine. It’s adequate. It’s definitely not a bad album; it delivers (more or less) everything you’d expect from Tsunami Bomb, but there aren’t any moments that surprise or leave an impact on the listener. If this was the debut album of some pop-punk revival band, it would be a promising starting point. But this is a band that is almost two decades into its existence, and it doesn’t feel like they’re going to be breaking any new ground from this point on. Maybe the band might not be interested in pushing the genre in new and exciting directions. Maybe they’re content to settle into the familiar sounds they’re comfortable with, and there’s nothing wrong with that.