Tribes – Baby
For those of us looking for an exciting new band to herald the next explosion of great British guitar music, Camden four-piece Tribes’ debut album has long been earmarked as the possible game changer. When they demoed the likes of ‘Sapphos’ and ‘We Were Children’ last summer they sounded like a band full of the kind of vitality and common touch that galvanised the scene around The Libertines ten years ago.
It’s all too easy to get excited about a band after hearing a few rough demoes though, and quite a different story when it’s time for them to deliver the goods and live up to the hype with their debut album. In the case of Baby, Tribes haven’t quite come up with the game changing, scene sparking album we – probably unfairly – expected of them, but they have at least managed to create the first exciting album of 2012.
The gloriously simple and effective riff of ‘Whenever’ kicks things off and quickly establishes Tribes’ grungey influences as well as their preference for rousing rock choruses. ‘We Were Children’ keeps up the grunge theme with a guitar line that has its fair share of Pixies-dust, and features singer Johnny Lloyd seemingly apologising for their Britpop and grunge influences: “…these things happen / We were children of the mid-90’s”.
‘Corner Of A English Field’ is a more melodic and lovelorn affair (“On this island in the sea / Which was made for you and me”) and takes its lead more from latter days Killers. ‘Halfway Home’ is a bit of a Razorlight-shaped let-down, but is quickly rectified by the satisfyingly scuzzy ‘Sapphos’ and brilliantly moody and atmospheric ‘Himalaya’ – which sounds like early-Verve mixed with a bit of Smashing Pumpkins’ trademark bluster.
‘Nightdriving’ is the albums stand out track – a beautifully structured ballad showing Tribes’ ability to build a story into crowd-friendly choruses, in this case about a depressed man careering through a broken and hopeless world: “6am, watch the sun come up by myself / Watch the headlights fly by / Roadkill makes my guts want to spill / On the backseat now, with my hair hanging down / What use is God if you can’t see him? / What use are friends if they don’t want in?…”. It sounds like the exact song The Courteeners have been trying, and failing, to write for the past few years and confirms Tribes as one of the most exciting new bands around.
‘When My Day Comes’ gets Baby back onto the vibrant, rabble-rousing path and shows Tribes are just as adept at carefree rocking than they are at tugging at the heartstrings.
The one thing that lets Baby down is that a lot of it is a bit formulaic, with some tracks coming across as filler. While they might not be the first band to be guilty of that particular crime, it is a bit disappointing for such an exciting prospect to be running out of ideas on their first album – but the good news is they have a lot of room to grow into.
Tribes may not quite hit the lofty heights of ‘guitar music saviours’, but with Baby they have come the closest so far.