Tsunami Reviews

Tsunami circa 1990 in Waukesha, WI.
photo by Pat Graham 1990
Tsunami circa 1991 in Washington, DC.
photo by Jim Saah 1991

Headringer 7"
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 249 - Aug 16, 1991

Though all four members are fresh arrivals to the scene, after half a minute through this six-song demo, our ears fill with wistful memories of the verdant days (`round `84-ish) when indie rock, and bands like Uzi and Christmas, first rose to distinction. Apparently recorded from a radio station's production board, the appallingly flat, muddy sound can't obscure a hearty and traditional tackling of honest, staunchly grass-roots rock. Bassist Andrew Webster and drummer John Pamer's anchored, methodical rhythms are direct descendents of Antietam's or early Volcano Suns' broilings (quite discernable on "Flameproof Suit" and "Candyman"). The songs are lumbering at first but pick up steam as they go, with interplay between the instruments as great a consideration as the plain-spoken melodic simplicity of the songs themselves. Vocalist/guitarist Jenny Toomey utters purposely obscure, caustic lyrics with growly defiance-part Tara Key quaver, part Jean Smith accusation. About as steadfast, un-flash and liberal-arts righteous as we can expect in these image-conscious days, Tsunami hasn't quite blown away the accomplishments of the hoary and honorable indie hall of famers, but the blustery spirit and fearless, confrontational attitude indicate a growth spurt from already solid ground.

Matchbook 7"
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 332 - May 10, 1993

Tsunami's latest single, subtitled the "Matchbook EP" on account of its design as a stylish replica of a `40s-era matchbook, gives us a sneak preview of the band's forthcoming debut album Deep End. An army of two furiously strumming guitars drives "In A Name," Jenny Toomey's muscular vocals detailing a surprisingly catchy vocal line and the whole song evoking Scrawl in its raw strength. The guitars make room for a chugging drum pattern and another wash of intense vocals on "Not Living," and strangely enough, a jaunty bossa nova beat backs "Basso Nova," adding a sultry mood to the proceedings and recalling Eggs' obsession with that same swinging beat.
-Lydia Anderson

Deep End CD/LP
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 335 - May 31, 1993

Plenty has been said about Tsunami's inspired D.I.Y. ethos, politically correct motivations and its inventive, self-start label Simple Machines, run by bandleaders Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thompson, but sadly the band's music itself has only been available in small doses. Finally, with the release of its debut LP Deep End, Tsunami delivers a full-size portion of its music, and happily there's still plenty to talk about. At the helm are Toomey's rich, emotive vocals, balancing and complementing the tension billowing from Tsunami's music. Bassist Andrew Webster and drummer John Pamer's rhythmic landslide falls in nervous ripples and cascades, befitting each song's moody temperament. The raw edges of Thompson and Toomey's guitar grind and the latter's gutsy, feminine vocals designate Columbus, OH's Scrawl as a mentor (not so coincidentally, Simple Machines is now that trio's label). After two years of having its name mentioned in the same breath as indie buddies Superchunk and Velocity Girl, Tsunami now has an album that's worth all the fuss, as "In A Name," a cover of My Dad Is Dead's "Water's Edge," "Genius Of Crack," "460" and "Stupid Like A Fox" attest.
-Lydia Anderson

The Heart's Tremolo
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 380 - May 16, 1994

We could fill up this page discussing Tsunami's gorgeous packaging, self-run record label, side projects, etc., but the music itself is the most deserving of attention. On its sophomore effort, The Heart's Tremolo, the band has become a bit slower and quieter, creating subtle contrasts and greater depth through meticulous attention to sound and rhythm. Early comparisons to Scrawl were not entirely off-base, but don't do justice to the sophistication of Tsunami's arrangements. The music is complex, not in a virtuosic manner, but in dramatic accompaniment to the wide range of Jenny Toomey's singing. On "Loud Is As Loud Does" her soaring vocals and cynical lyrics are majestically engulfed by a guitar tidal wave, while on the striking "Kidding On The Square" the guitars chime under her melodious intoning. Rather than write occasional quiet/acoustic numbers as a change of pace, Tsunami utilizes these elements for dynamic tension. Each verse of "Cowed By The Bla Bla" brings a different, but completely logical, instrumental texture, the song revealing itself gradually. Also making our pulse flutter: "Le Bride D'Elegance" and the tempo-shifting instrumental "Slaw," which could pass for a Slint out-take (this is not faint praise).
-David Newgarden

Tsunami circa 1995 in Washington, DC.
photo by Tim Owen 1995

Check out a review of World Tour and other Destinations at www.popshots.org

A Brilliant Mistake CD
From the pages of the CMJ New Music Report, Issue: 536 - Sep 1, 1997

Listening to A Brilliant Mistake, Tsunami's first album in two long years, it seems that the band, once the head cheerleader of the D.I.Y indie scene, has been spending its quiet time reflecting on big business's buy-out of the indie scene. The band wags a critical tongue about today's money-propelled `independent' system and vows not to get involved; on "Old Gray Mare," for instance, Jenny Toomey sings, "I won't be formed to the readymade or matched to the cut of the retrograde or led by the reigns to a pony show or marketed coy with a blow job m.o." But it's not change that Tsunami opposes. A Brilliant Mistake, while not abandoning the Tsunami trademarks of slightly quirky melodies and rhythms, is more musically focused, with a warmer and softer sound than previous albums. This newfound delicacy results in part from the stronger harmonic interplay between vocalists Toomey and Kristen Thompson, and Thompson taking the lead more often. The album's lyrics, however, are anything but delicate. On "Double Shift" Thompson asks, "Is that all we get for cutting against the grain?" Hard work has always been a commandment of the Tsunami/Simple Machines camp, but questions like that make us wonder if this won't be the band's swan song.

A Brilliant Mistake CD
From All-Music Guide

Tsunami's records are usually excellent, but on The Brilliant Mistake, Tsunami has truly reached their apex. This stroke of brilliance corresponds to the tragic end of the band's Simple Machines label after seven years of near-flawless production and indie rock mining. The band's earlier attempts at punk rock were often tedious at best, but with these 13 songs, they put aside their punk ambitions and create their cleanest, most cohesive record to date. On "Old Gray Mare," singer Jenny Toomey croons about the metaphorical, while two songs later, pulsing horns accompany her as she wails about struggling against the grain of mainstream society.

The Brilliant Mistake is pure, mellifluous indie rock, the place where a genuine DIY ethos meets pure pop sensibility. As expected, the album is strewn with literary references, from a song dedicated to David Foster Wallace to odd lyrics reworking elements of Allen Ginsberg's "The Howl." This record is often brilliant but never a mistake.
~ Marc Ruxin, All-Music Guide

..and another review at popshots.org.



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