Album Review: Tribes

baby (island)

When Camden four-piece, Tribes, first emerged onto the scene in 2010, they were hailed as one of the bands with the potential to revive guitar music and it's struggling sale figures.

An understandable and hopeful prediction at first, but with their fuzz-soaked debut album, Baby, they're more likely to unearth the Nineties Grunge sound of pioneering bands like The Pixies or Nirvana, instead of a stimulating new direction the genre is so desperate for. But don't get me wrong, this is still a great album!

Baby is an nostalgia-inducing amalgamation of both the Grunge and Brit-Pop eras. The first two tracks, Whenever and We Were Children, are grunge-tinged, swaggering rock tracks brimming with musical relics of days gone by. The first has an opening guitar riff loosely based around the classic flange sound that helped to define Nirvana's Nevermind album, and the second takes elements of The Pixies' melancholic Where Is My Mind? intro. We were Children, particularly, is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The song's hook is the line, "We were children in the Mid-Nineties" and has that hopeless yet completely uplifting, 'It's-ok' sound that built the foundation for so many Grunge records.

The influences detectable on this album are far and wide, from the Lo-Fi sounds a-kin to Blur, the confidence of Noel Gallagher in frontman, Johnny Lloyds's delivery and the indie fringes of Brit group, Suede, with the track, Corner Of An English Field. The rest of the album delves in and out of the indie shoe-gaze style (Sappho), combined with spacey acoustic tracks (Halfway Home) and songs lamenting love, loss and heartbreak (Himalaya). Halfway Home is a beautiful song which slowly builds to the intensely emotional cry of "I'm not in love with you / This time it's plain to see". Baby is full of sharp songwriting. Tribes' have an endearing and dark quality about their writing, which effortlessly cascades into eloquent storytelling, such as the lyric, "How do you tell a son that his daddy left his mum when he fell in love with a girl like you?".

What makes this record so intriguing is their clever hold on juxtapositional content. Baby is awash with contrasts that keep the listener on their toes - the bright melodies against the dark, fuzzy guitars. The filthy/sweet dichotomy that is implied at in the subject matter and the downright noisy grunge balanced with soft acoustic passages. They are the epitome of a diamond in the rough.

Despite the band being young, and barely around during the Grunge movement, their ability to assert a sense of authority and authenticity in their music is impressive. They speak to the public - the disillusioned, disheartened youth who are looking towards a bleak future of hopelessness and pointlessness - in the same way bands were doing two decades ago. Tribes' music invigorates and arouses, whilst translating the familiar, lost relics into something fresh and exciting.

Every new guitar band brings with them a sense of hope and expectation for the future. We cling on, hoping to not let them slip from our grasp. However, Tribes fill me with optimism. Their chance of saving a dying scene is one I'm willing to back, and with a record as big as Baby, they've certainly got more than a fighting chance!

Track listing (Deluxe Version):

  • Whenever
  • We Were Children
  • Corner Of An English Field
  • Halfway Home
  • Sappho
  • Himalaya
  • Nightdriving
  • When My Day Comes
  • Walking In The Street
  • Alone Or With Friends
  • Bad Apple
  • Glass Of Poison
  • Coming Down On Me
  • In This Life

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