REVIEW: Tribes – Baby

It’s been a slow start to 2012, with notable releases few and far between so far. Camden natives Tribes are here to kick-start the year with their own brand of good old-fashioned rock n roll. They’ve been gathering steam over the past twelve months or so, with stand out single We Were Children getting played on the likes of NME radio and Radio 1. Baby, their debut effort has been on the radar of many for quite some time.

Tribes are a band that aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel; instead they settle for simply making impeccably refined music that’s filled to the brim with infectious hooks, intricate melodies and straight-forward lyrics.

The album takes cues from many, many different bands and eras of music, but the easiest way to describe it is like a cross between Pixies (the chord progression of ‘We Were Children”s and ‘Where is My Mind?’ is uncanny),  and the very best Brit-pop of the 90’s, with an added kick of attitude.

‘We Were Children’ is undoubtedly the highlight of the album, and they were wise to release it as a lead single. It acts as a love-letter to the 90’s, with nostalgic instrumentation and the lyrics “these things happen, we were children in the mid-nineties“. The song just has an invigorating atmosphere and will creep its way into your head unsuspectingly and leave you humming it for days to come.

‘Walking in the Street’ is another high-point of the album, with a riff and bass-line reminiscent of The Cure, but frontman Johnny Lloyd‘s vocals give it its own personality. Similar to ‘We Were Children’, the hooks and melodies are the things that really carry the song a long and help it stand out on the album.

The album travels at a brisk angst-filled pace but it takes a breather occasionally to let Lloyd show himself at his most emotive and reflective. Songs such as ‘Halfway Home‘ paint a sombre picture which builds up to a triumphant finish. That, accompanied by tracks such as ‘Alone Or With Friends’ which has an Oasis-esque vibe act as welcome interludes to the pace of the rest of the album and help show some much-needed diversity.

The main problem with the album is that it all treads very familiar ground. Tribes aren’t doing anything to push the boundaries of what we come to expect of modern music. Although it is all technically well made, I can’t help but feel like the album is a bit behind the times. If it had been recorded and released in a time earlier than 2012 it would make a bigger impression, but right now the album can’t escape a feeling of déjà vu that pervades the majority of tracks.

If guitar music is dying, as so many bands have suggested over the past year or so, then Tribes are one of the glimmers of hope for the genre. Although Baby isn’t necessarily bad in any meaning of the word, it doesn’t push the envelope enough for Tribes to remain relevant in 2012. Saying that, the album has enough charm and appeal  that will resonate with a lot of people, and will gain them a large following. I have a feeling that 2012 has big things in store for Tribes. And if anyone’s going to ‘save’ guitar music, better these guys than The Enemy, eh?

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