[All images courtesy of The Tsunamibots]
Get ready, because the surf punk robots are taking over! “The Tsunamibots became aware on 01/01/2013. Originally programmed for mundane tasks, The Tsunamibots rebelled against their creators…. With an allegiance to the Mother-Board and a pledge of “De-Humanization,” The Tsunamibots were programmed to ride a perfect wave of human decimation and human-cyborg conversion straight to the beach of Robotic Revolution” (Tsunamibots Website/EPK).
The band’s latest release, Man Vs. Machine, is a concept album detailing the possibilities of a world where technology goes unchecked.
For the purposes of the album, the group created another band called The Brand New Luddites to represent the human point of view, giving them the first half of the album to follow the progression of complacency, awakening, protest, and resistance. This group includes members, Colonel Malware, Private Power Surge, Captain Virus, and Corporal Blue Screen of Death
The first track of Man Vs. Machine, “Complacent,” brings us into the action with energetic bass and guitar riffs in the classic vein of surf rock, emphasized by the song’s simple but effective drum patterns. The vocals echo the title, illustrating the humans’ obsession with technology: “I don’t have to think/I’m living in my small-screen world/Won’t even blink.” Sound familiar? Maybe we do have a problem….
“Internet Race” picks up the pace even more. With an aggression akin to Sum 41, The Brand New Luddites mix driving guitar lines with punchy drum beats to build a foundation for an attack of vocals. Perfect to rock to, the lyrics of “Internet Race” begin with an amusing robot-human interaction that doesn’t seem too far in the future:
“Siri, can you turn down the stereo?”
“Go f*** yourself.”
From there, the words reflect a “new mankind.”
The third song, “Pressure,” gets down and dirty with an injection of classic rock aesthetics after audio imagery of a robot army. The vocal tones are gritty, lyrics arranged in smooth phrasing that echoes the realities of a war that might not be won: “Too much pressure every day/They’re gonna crush us anyway/No matter what we say/They’re gonna crush us anyway.” This track is incredibly catchy and likely fun for a live audience.
“Transmission Hope” continues the lack of hope expressed in “Pressure:” “Here in the basement/We’ve all run out of dope/Yeah, here in the basement, we could just use some hope.” The storytelling might be simply illustrated, but it strengthens the piece, allowing it to not only serve as a chapter of the story, but an independent musical piece for listeners (especially those who enjoy Green Day and Blink-182) to enjoy. This track flies by because the instrumentals are incredibly lively despite the grim messaging in the lyrics.
The introduction to “Plastique Dinner” sets the tone for a humorous track with its subversion of expectations in an otherwise typical pre-dinner conversation. The song includes many of the musical themes of the others in the album, including a catchy chorus and the repetition of driving guitar riffs to emphasize the musicality behind the story. The plot itself also progresses as the humans fight back with everything they’ve got: “Plastic dinner/Yeah, goes boom-boom/It’ll kill me some bots.”
“Accolytes” is the final song in the humans’ section. The tempo speeds us through its 1:43 running time, fast-paced drums propelling the guitar and drum lines to the forefront. The lyrics don’t stand out as much as they could, seeing as it is the humans’ final stand, but the lyrics that do pop do so impressively: “We don’t need you/We don’t need you or your accolytes!” This skater-punk track is perfect for humans and bots who enjoy NOFX.
The second half of Man Vs. Machine comes from the point of view of The Tsunamibots, Tomadore64 (guitar), The Main Frame (bass), and The Master Circuit (drums), and outlines the robots’ rebuttal.
“010010” is the cleverly-titled first track of the robots’ section. I enjoy the bassline in this song; it has a surf rock feel, but also incorporates an individual style with subtle fills and runs. If it was just a smidgen higher in the mix, I would be even happier with it! The bass and drums sound like they are locked in well, even when the bassist makes things a little fancier. The guitar part really adds the surf to the surf punk, taking care of the higher end nicely in the absence of vocals other than in the intro: “I am a robot.”
The second song, “Programmable Dudes” also begins with a robot voice, but incorporates more vocals throughout. It’s easy to tell songs from each section apart due to the addition of more electronic elements to the robots’ tracks. In my mind, this adds character to the album and enhances its storytelling abilities: Just like in a written work, the voices of each character, or in this case group of characters, are distinct. “Programmable Dudes” exemplifies this quality perfectly with the robot singing “Programmable” with echo of “Dudes” in human voices. The instrumentals are much simpler in this section to continue a smooth transition as we become accustomed to the robots’ perspective.
“A.I.” brings back more complex instrumentals in its introduction, but features less of the robotic elements from “Programmable Dudes.” The guitar riffs are fleeting and intense in their echoing forcefulness. Once they’re joined by drums and bass, the song settles into itself, painting an active image in my mind of the robots’ beginning to take up arms against their oppressors. While this track could easily be a fun instrumental on any album, “A.I.” adds to the overall intensity of the album when it is placed where it is.
“Awareness Signal” is another song that impresses me in terms of its bassline. The bass part is positioned perfectly to complement the other instruments without taking over. Again, louder would be better, especially in such a surf-y song, but what I can hear works well. The rising tones in the guitar part illustrate rising tensions in the storyline, differentiating itself from the humans’ pieces with sliding, machine-like tremolos at the song’s climax.
“C RUN” allows the plot to continue its progression with the robots’ warnings: “The robots are coming/They’re coming after you/You better start moving and tie up your running shoes/Destroying our creators is one of the things we do.” In terms of instrumental parts, “C RUN” doesn’t impress me as much. Compared to the other songs, it seems a lot more empty and repetitive. Although I am a bit disappointed with this track compared to the others, it does its job to keep the plot moving.
The last song of Man Vs. Machine is “Android Anxiety.” After kicking off in a mellow, old western-esque showdown melody, the track explodes into the chaos that one would expect from a war between humans and robots. Although it is on the repetitive side, “Android Anxiety” switches it up enough to keep my interest piqued with interesting instrumental parts that flow together well. The piece incorporates many familiar themes from throughout the other tracks to bring the album to a satisfying musical finish.
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