Tribes – ‘Baby’ album review

One to watch act Tribes deliver their first full length and we sit Chris Eustace down with some beasty headphones to get his verdict.

Camden Town’s Tribes made several ‘Ones to Watch in 2011‘ lists, but opted out, to build gradually as fellow critic’s darlings The Vaccines soared and Viva Brother fizzled out, leading to a nigh-on devotional Festival Republic tent crowds at Reading & Leeds, and a sold-out Electric Ballroom show with just two singles to their name. Now finally, with the words ‘Nineties’ and ‘Grunge’ looming large, comes the first album.

Opener ‘Whenever’ obligingly sports an intro that sounds like ‘Come As You Are’ would if it fell off the shelf and you couldn’t quite put the pieces back together, and when the band’s calling card ‘We Were Children’ starts up, you have to congratulate singer Johnny Lloyd for coming up with the concept of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ as covered by Suede. All jokes aside, it’s as affecting as it is catchy, nailing the horror of growing up.

Any feeling that Tribes might only have one-dimensional ‘anthems’ in their locker is swiftly dispelled by the more considered ‘Corner Of An English Field’. A wistful, worthy tribute to Lloyd’s friend, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool singer Charlie Haddon, who died last year, it deserves single status itself.

By the stately ‘Himalaya’, as he cries “Does it move you, the state I’m in?”, there no getting away from it: forget the 90’s, Lloyd’s voice definitely has a touch of the Borrells about it. While it’s not a cool name to drop, had Johnny come up with a few more tunes like these, his stock might not be so low these days.

The familiar sound of former single ‘Sappho’ ushers the fuzzy guitars back in, unfolding into an enjoyable pre-‘Holy Bible’ Manics bounce. Meanwhile, ‘When My Day Comes’ shiftily puts the riff from ‘I Fought The Law’ in its back pocket and runs off, but gets away with it when you realise you’re jumping around the room to it.

What use is God if you can’t see him?” decries ‘Nightdriving’, the highlight of the album’s second half. Nothing less than a lighters/mobile-phones-in-the-air ballad, it’s reined in enough so that it’s moving without descending into Bon Jovi territory. This knack of knowing when to stop also keeps the penultimate ‘Alone Or With Friends’ from piling on the guitar solos, and means the album clocks in at a repeat button-friendly 40 minutes.

While they might have trodden different paths to get here, Tribes and The Vaccines actually have a lot in common. Neither’s debut reinvents the wheel, but they’re both loads of fun, and the chances are you’ll be getting sweaty and singing along to this come the summer. Big in 2011? Bigger in 2012, it looks like. 

‘Baby’ is out on 16 January on Island Records.

Click here to buy ‘Baby‘ on iTunes.

Click here to buy ‘Baby‘ through Google Market Place.