Baby Baby Baby Oh: It’s Not Justin Bieber, It’s Tribes’ Debut Album
I first discovered Tribes in my car, when I heard the song “We Were Children” on Sirius XM channel Alt Nation. More a fan of melodic music than noisy, I was relatively unimpressed with the loud distorted chords and gruff singing that blasted through my speakers in the first verse. And then came the chorus. The background noise faded out, and the singer crooned the ultra-catchy hook “Oh no, stranger, you were just like me / These things happen / We were children in the mid ’90s.” Intrigued by the interesting dynamics, I YouTubed the album (editor’s note: yes, it’s 2012) as soon as I got home. I was not disappointed.
On Baby, indie rockers Tribes piece together the remnants of 1990s rock with the vicissitudes of teenage life. Musically, the guitar alternates between hard distorted licks and crisp light riffs, as Johnny Lloyd’s voice goes from shouting to crooning. This juxtaposition makes the album a pleasure to listen to. In one of my favorites, “Sappho,” Lloyd’s voice spends much of the song at a near whisper before he crescendos into screams at the finish.
Many of the riffs and melodies draw their inspiration from ’90s rockers. Influences from Pixies and Jane’s Addiction are rampant. The opening riff of the song “We Were Children” sounds almost exactly like the riff from “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies. In the song “Alone or With Friends,” Johnny Lloyd does his best impression of Thom Yorke, singing in a dreary monotone around a full body of instruments.
The lyrics convey the uncertainty of teenage life, touching on love, friendships, and stress. The album title, Baby, acts as a double entendre, referring to both the endearing term for a lover, as well as the synonym for infant (in reference to the process of growing up). In the lone ballad of the album, “Halfway Home,” Lloyd channels both of these notions as he expresses his feelings for a loved one. As the song progresses, he goes from madly in love, to somewhat bored and disinterested, to in need of something new. In the first verse, he repeats the phrase “Just wanna dance with you,” verbalizing his endearment. In the second verse, however, he sings, “If you could list your favorite things, fast foods and magazines,” which references very conventional things, hinting that he may have moved beyond her. The song ends with him proclaiming that he’s ready to move on and is better off alone.
Many other songs touch on the problems and stress of teenage life. The idea of home recurs throughout the album and acts as a motif representing a haven from problems. The song “Corner of an English Field” exemplifies the stresses the band is going through, describing the pressures of teenage life in the verses before diving headfirst into the catchy chorus: “In the corner of an English field, with the devil trying to cut a deal, I decided that I wanna go home.”
As a teenager myself, I found the lyrics of this album very honest and enjoyed the album thoroughly. The first half of the album is especially good, but the quality of its hooks trails off toward the end. If you’re only going to buy a few songs, I would suggest getting “Corner of an English Field,” “Sappho,” and my personal favorite, the ultra-catchy “We Were Children.”
Unfortunately, many other influential album reviewers did not agree with me and gave the album mediocre reviews. Many considered it to be derivative and uninspiring, critiques that definitely have merit—it’s not an album that will wow you with its innovation. Still, I encourage you to have a listen; I think that you will enjoy your trip into the perpetually teenage minds of Tribes.