Tribes - Baby
Take whatever preconceptions you had about Tribes and dismiss them. Because if you think you have them sussed on the basis of ‘We Were Children’ or even just their fashion choices, you haven’t. It’s almost as if the Camden four-piece know it as well. The opening bars of ‘Whenever’ seem to suggest an explosion of clattering cymbals and hard, fast riffs to herald Baby’s arrival; instead, we get an unexpected, softer bass hook and a superb piece of misdirection and, even though what follows develops it into a fantastically punchy rock anthem and an absolute beauty of an opener, we’re instantly thrown by not knowing what awaits us on the next track. It is this uncertainty that which makes Baby one of the most exciting debuts we’ve heard in recent years.
Predominantly written – barring ‘Himalaya’ and ‘Alone Or With Friends’ – by lead singer Johnny Lloyd during a period where he split up with his girlfriend and when his lifelong friend Charlie Haddon tragically died, it’s little surprise that a lot of Baby is more reflective than raucous. It might have been interesting to know what it might have ended up sounding like if conceived during a happier time, but the overall work is undoubtedly improved by the strong mix of the emotive and the anthemic. The likes of the sublime and affecting ‘Corner Of An English Field’ – “Took a walk yesterday to the places we would play / Then Charlie passed away and it hasn’t been the same” – add colour to what otherwise could have been a very sharply crafted, but heard-it-all-before, Libertines-esque rock effort.
Not that Tribes aren’t a dab hand at rough-edged, sing along inducing rock slabs: ‘When My Day Comes’ is utterly joyous, a celebration of just not giving a damn packed full of straightforward, but quotable, lyrics – “If nothing ever stays the same, then why should we worry about acting our age?” It’s just that melding this with softer slices, along with more expansive efforts with shades of grunge, psych and alt-rock, such as the epic ‘Himalaya’ boasting the album’s sharpest riff or The Beatles-gone-rogue stylings of ‘Alone Or With Friends’, gives Baby a distinctive flavour and means it defies boredom. Even if you don’t like the music, you’d be hard pressed to fault the ambition and the craft that’s gone into making it.
Holding it all together, aside from the excellent production from Mike Crossey – Baby was recorded on tape which gives it the type of energetic, raw quality that Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light benefited from – is front man Johnny Lloyd. With confidence oozing out of every note, Lloyd is as adept at making us feel every nuance, especially on the melancholic ‘Nightdriving’ (“Running around with my head in a spin / What use is God if you never win?”), as well as powerfully leading the meaty guitars and drums on the likes of the brilliant ‘Sappho’. It means that whatever contrasting musical avenues Baby finds the band in, it never feels like a band imitating their influences – it’s defiantly Tribes. The start of something beautiful?