Review : Tribes - Baby
NmeGrime versus glam. Grunge against gloss. A perfect ‘Aladdin Sane’ flashbolt smeared with grisly Pixies gore. Pulp’s shiniest synth hits dipped in diesel. Dissect Tribes’ filthy/sweet dichotomy – that delicious clash of bright melody and dank garage noise – whichever way you like, it’s as ravishing as a pack of supermodel she-wolves.
And bang on time. The past 18 months have seen a flood of bands finding that the most doe-eyed pop tunes sound even lovelier if you smother them in tarry guitars and scuzzy electronic fuzz and roll them down a muddy hill into a ditch. Sleigh Bells, Foals, Fixers, St Vincent and dozens more have been dressing up their musical Lana Del Reys as Frank Gallaghers and gritpopping their way into our hearts, but more than anyone Tribes are twinned with San Francisco’s Girls. They share the same glam-folk core, the same rag-shirted disregard for personal hygiene and the same lust for dense distortion, deeply deployed. And they’re both as dizzying as a tightening belt at your throat.
For the best part of a year Tribes have been teasing us with their enigmatic brilliance – a dirty diamond of a demo about an ancient Greek lesbian poet here, a glam blammer about growing up in the ’90s there – but while ‘Sappho’ and ‘We Were Children’ (for it is they) were doing the festival rounds, most who heard them seemed apathetic or, worse still, suffered a total inability to remember who the fuck Tribes were in the first place. Worry not, though. With ‘Baby’, their long-awaited debut album, Tribes have roared back fiercer than ever....full text
PitchforkThough delivered with various levels of irony, each of those lyrics makes the same point: Retromania is inevitably a practice in revisionist history. For those of us coming of age during this Kennedy administration, I present Baby, the debut album from Camden quartet Tribes. Though "We Were Children" is ostensibly meant as a narrative of youthful indiscretion, there's nowhere near enough specificity in Johnny Lloyd's lyrics to hear "these things happen, we were children in the mid 90s" as anything other than Baby's mission statement. It essentially recreates a 45-minute MTV rock block from 1995 in its most accurate and often unflattering terms.
I can't stress the MTV aspect of it enough. Tribes are hardly alone in their studious appreciation of Clinton-era guitar rock these days, but unlike Surfer Blood, Male Bonding, or Yuck, they have absolutely no sonic or philosophical ties to indie rock whatsoever. If you're in a generous mood, you might hear the regally draped "Corner of an English Field" occupying the same cross-section of glam-rock and Britpop that Suede's Dog Man Star did, and "We Were Children" pretty much steals the riff and song structure from "Where Is My Mind?" wholesale. But due to the arrow-straight performances, slick and sober production, and overeagerness to please, a more accurate assessment would say that we're dealing with third-genners like Spacehog or the Toadies. These are two of Baby's maybe five memorable songs, for what it's worth... which for a supposed pop-rock record is worth everything.
There is a good amount of hooky fun to be had when Tribes come off like the band on Baby's album cover-- scrappy but stylish, in search of the next available good time. In a weird way, the album actually feels like an alternative of some kind in 2012 if you're all but ignoring major-label rock: Lloyd's vocals are loud and brash, but in a charming way that's utterly necessary if you're gonna sell lyrics like, "I scream from California," pronounced like, "ice cream from Californ-eye-uh." Likewise, the liftoff achieved by the choruses on "We Were Children" and "Whenever" packs a tremendous kick in large part because Tribes harbor no delusions about being a garage band. This is market-tested and fail-proof keg-rock with all grunge and grit sanded off so it can leap out of jukebox speakers with the utmost velocity....full text
Guardian"We were children in the mid-90s," sings Johnny Lloyd of hotly tipped London quartet Tribes, and the influence of the period looms large in the Pixies-type descending chords and Bellyish melodic basslines. However, with inspiration also coming via T Rex and Mott the Hoople, this strong debut is an unlikely collision of alt-rock and glam rock. With Lloyd coming across like a latterday Ian Hunter, the songs are big on riffs, hooks, choruses, sex and swagger, although there's enough going on lyrically to suggest more depth than just sharp songwriting. The superb Corner of an English field ("with the Devil trying to cut a deal") seems to refer to a particularly dark childhood incident, and the similarly standout Sappho makes storytelling ("How do you tell a son that his daddy left his mum when he fell in love with a girl like you?") into a killer chorus. Every new year brings another guitar band burdened with expectations, but Tribes have every chance....full text
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