Review: Tribes – ‘Baby’

Originally published for IAreYeti.

At the beginning of every year, debut albums are released in abundance, with each artist hopeful of making an impact on the music industry. Camden-based Tribes have been dubbed as ‘ones to watch in 2012’, following in the footsteps of bands like The Vaccines, as one of the breakthrough guitar bands of the year.  In their debut album ‘Baby’, Tribes have set out to revive grunge and, while the influences are clearly there in the melodies, the lyrics seem more melancholic and sentimental than your typical angst-fuelled grunge anthems.

The band’s influences are made clear from the start, with the riff at the beginning of album-opener ‘Whenever’ sounding suspiciously similar to that of ‘Come as You Are’ by grunge heroes, Nirvana. However, when Johnny Lloyd’s vocals kick in, so too does the melancholy, with the almost despairing wail of “If you came back it’d just be me and you” suggesting that this album is not simply going to be about a hatred of conformity and desire for freedom. The following track and current single, ‘We Were Children’ reeks of nostalgia and seems like a strong attempt to produce an anthem for their generation.

Throughout the album, the band have a tendency to follow a similar progression in several of their songs, from a thrashing beginning, to a whispering bridge leading in to a big chorus. A prime example of this is on one of the album’s stand-out tracks ‘Sappho’, which shows a much more profound side to Lloyd’s song writing, in which he asks: “How do you tell a child that there’s no God up in the sky and it’s all a lie?” Another of the album’s stand-out tracks ‘Alone or With Friends’ shows a more experimental side to the band, with the echoing vocals and guitar distortion nodding to influences from the Britpop era.

It’s difficult to pin down Tribes’ sound to one genre, which is one of the most appealing things about the band. They’ve been referred to as indie, grunge, glam rock and even pop-punk but, in fact, their debut album cites influences from all those genres, without sounding like too much of a mish-mash. Tribes are exactly what British music needs right now: a band that are not afraid to be a bit daring with their sound and are not one-dimensional.

Where The Vaccines fell short, Tribes pick up the pieces and prove that catchy songs can only get you so far but having depth is what really gives a band longevity – and Tribes have a wealth of depth. The critics may already have them down as one of the breakthrough bands of 2012 but, unless they allow themselves to get caught up in the eye of the storm, Tribes could be destined for bigger and greater things in the future.

Overall Rating: 4/5

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