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Album Review: Tribes - Baby

Posted by Anthony - 23rd January 2012

Tribes is a 4 piece guitar band from Camden that arrived on the scene last year in a blaze of hype. Now the lads have released their first album, Baby, and the big question is, does it live up to expectations? Well, you can rely on your 'BIG Live Acts' reviewer to put you right!

Tribes are Johnny Lloyd, guitar and vocals, Dan White, guitar, Miguel Demelo, drums, and Jim Cratchley, bass. They are all in their mid 20s and say their musical influences are Led Zep, the Stones, Kinks, Beatles, Horrors, Black Keys, Maccabees, Transfer and Jack White. They call their music rock and roll. However, the hype around the band has portrayed Tribes as a grunge guitar group and they all wear the appropriate clothing for this image.

In the last few months Tribes has been actively promoting itself via festivals, radio and appearing as a support act. Recently Tribes was announced as an act to appear on the NME Awards 2012 Tour. The album follows on from the release last year of 2 EPs and 2 singles. Three of these tracks are featured on the album.

Baby has 11 tracks and was mixed and produced by Mike Crossey at Motor Museum, Liverpool. Mike has previously worked with Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight and The Kooks. On Baby he has given the tracks a big production and if you have decent speakers or headphones then you are in for an ear assaulting treat if you pump up the volume.

Early reviews of the album have allegedly noticed the influence of, amongst others, Nirvana, Blur, T Rex, Pixies, Undertones, Jam, Bowie, Boo Radleys, Killers, Suede and Libertines. Wow, that's a mixture. I think that while the music is essentially a nod to grunge rock and indie thrash there is in fact far more going on than you would gather on first listen. Tribes give us typical indie guitar sounds but there seems to be a more sophisticated band here waiting to break out.

Several songs are already well known from last year i.e. Sappho, We Were Children and When My Day Comes. Sappho is a particularly interesting song because of the mature nature of the lyrics. In fact Johnny Lloyd's songwriting is strong throughout; he wrote 9 of the songs with 1 each written by Jim Cratchley and Dan White. If I had a criticism of the songs it would be that melodically they could be a bit stronger. There are big choruses aplenty and the songs range from thrash to slower acoustic style numbers.

Johnny Lloyd has a good rock voice. The guitars sound OK and for the future I would like to hear more solo work to underpin the melodies. The bass and drums work well together. In Jim Cratchley the band has a first class bass player. His tasty bass lines drive the songs along and yet avoid being flashy. The best track on the album is Himalaya which, co-incidental, was written by Jim. This is an epic song with huge choruses, thundering drums and a lovely bass line: very atmospheric and bound to become a live performance favourite.

The strongest song writing is to be found in the slower songs. My favourite tracks, apart from Himalaya, are Corner Of An English Field, Sappho, and Alone Or With Friends, which happen to be the slower songs with the stronger melodies.

This is one of those albums that gets right inside your head after a few plays. It is an excellent first album and I hope that Tribes will evolve into something much more substantial. They certainly show the potential on this outing.

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