Diatribe on mediocrity

Art & Lit Music

Kate Bradley gives the new Tribes album a paltry 2 stars

The four members of Tribes – Johnny Lloyd, Jim Cratchley, Dan White and Miguel Demelo – began in different bands and came together to start this look-like-others, sound-like-others band. When Tribes first appeared in early 2011, they looked like the Libertines. When they first released a single, ‘We Were Children’, they sounded like Pixies (which they claim as one of their influences). When they launched their first album Baby, they sounded like Razorlight.

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These days they sound a bit like Oasis-Americana. They still look like the Libertines. I suppose that these things happen when you were children in the mid-’90s, but it makes me wonder what Tribes offer that isn’t on a million indie compilation CDs already (such compilation albums do exist, by the way. A quick Google search provides such gems as Cigarettes and Alcohol – 40 Modern Anthems and The Very Best of Pure Garage).

Back on track – the first one on the Tribes’ new album, Wish to Scream, is not a great song. It feels fairly catchy as you’re listening to it but doesn’t really have a hook; it’s got a big-stadium feel without ever really transcending its influences. ‘Dancehall’ isn’t doing anything new – it’s like a sixteen-year-old’s first attempt at song-writing, complete with forgettable classic rock chord progressions and repetitive lyrics. Track two, ‘Get Some Healing’, isn’t much better, working within the same structures but this time adding one of those unforgivable “na na na” endings. These set a template for the remainder of the album. The only track that I’d recommend is their current single, ‘How the Other Half Live’. If nothing else, it showcases Johnny Lloyd’s decent vocals – unlike many indie bands at the moment, they’ve actually got a talented singer (maybe if they split up, he could go and give Los Campesinos! a hand). Even then, when ‘How the Other Half Live’ got stuck in my head, it quickly morphed into ‘Champagne Supernova’, and the comparison doesn’t do Tribes any favours.

With Tribes, the more you listen the more influences you can hear. In an interview, one of the band members said they love the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, the Adam and Eve of British pop-rock – maybe their derivativeness can be blamed on the fact they share these ancestors with so many other bands. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to get past the feelings of déjà-vu and déjà-entendu when you’re listening to Tribes.

Wish to Scream is not a bad album, but it is an utterly mediocre album. Many people will enjoy it, because originality isn’t high up on everyone’s lists of criteria, and some people will just be relieved that guitar music isn’t dead. If nothing else, Tribes are proof that rock’s ghosts are still wandering about in limbo.

 Kate Bradley