The end of year scramble to predict the biggest prospects and brightest new talents for 2012 left many leading music industry figures tripping over themselves in a bid to acclaim the next big thing. Tribes were one of the acts being tipped for great things in the New Year, with the Camden quartet already making their presence felt at the end of festival season, performing at both Reading and Leeds and Bestival. They were, surprisingly, omitted from the BBC Sound of 2012 list, though. Whether this was a good or bad thing is now irrelevant, because, much more importantly, the Camden quartet deliver on their potential with their debut album, entitled Baby.
The album gets off to an enterprising start, with opener Whenever evoking Nirvana – although a more pop-orientated Nirvana. Lead singer Johnny Lloyd does his best Kurt Cobain drone over a chugging bass and sporadic drum beat, before the infectious chorus bursts into life with thrashing guitars at the ready. The stellar opening is continued by When Were Children. The lead song from Tribes’ debut EP was named “Hottest Record in the World” by Radio 1’s Zane Lowe back in April, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not your typical rocker, with its loud, guitar-led verse contrasting with the soft falsetto vocals of its slower, understated chorus, one that is as infectious as it is unexpected.
It’s not the last time Tribes manage to defy expectations during Baby, either. If the opening two songs suggested that Baby was going to be full-on from start to finish, then Tribes undermine that very notion on the next song, the slow-burning and poignant Corner Of An English Field. “Took a walk yesterday to the places we would play before childhood passed away,” sings Lloyd, as the hazy, twanging guitars give the song a warm, comforting glow. The first single from Baby, Sappho, is majorly indebted to early Radiohead, with an unmistakable similarity to the sound from the Oxford bands’ debut album, Pablo Honey. With blunt lyrics, “How do you tell a child that there’s no God up in the sky / And it’s all a lie”, and scuzzy guitars infused with the sound of early 90s grunge, it manages to feel both eerily familiar and magnificently fresh at the same time.
Whilst Baby often sounds perfectly suited to sweaty, teen-filled, boozers, there is also evidence on Tribes’ debut album that they intend to expand to larger venues. No more so, than the ready-made anthem, Himalaya. The 5-minute plus track is a sprawling, drawn-out epic, revolving around a repetitive drum beat and a slowly strummed guitar, before exploding into a luscious, belter of a chorus, as Lloyd yells “does it move you, the state I’m in?” over an emotive, backing vocal chant of “woah oh oh”. It’s gripping stuff, and more than anything else on Baby, it shows the impressive ambition that has seen the Camden band make a big impact in such a short time.
The beautiful Nightdriving follows on from where Himalaya left off, with another magnificent, heart-wrenching chorus, as Lloyd’s lyrics once more deal with heady subjects, “What use is God if you can’t see him / What use are friends if they don’’t want in.” When My Day Comes sees the four-piece return to The Libertines-esque thrashing that opened the album, while the album closes with the glorious, big-time chorus of Bad Apple. With some mind-numbingly brilliant riffs, huge choruses and brutally honest lyrics, Baby has already laid down the gauntlet to which all new albums will be judged against in 2012. Tribes may wear their influences on their collective sleeve, but they do so without sounding contrived or stale. Instead, this scruffy looking four-piece have come up with a stunning debut album, one that proves the hype was more than justified.