There are many contested things in this turbulent day and age: Palestine, Britain and the Euro, the efficacy of the 4-4-2 system, to name but a few.
The intrinsic worth of the new ‘Tribes’ album ‘Wish to Scream’ (release date 20/05/13) is another such issue. Widely panned as a ‘disappointment’, the general consensus is that ‘Wish to Scream’ lacks oomph and is too far a departure from the catchy stadium rock that characterised their first album ‘Baby’ (Jan 2012). Detractors claim that the band once backed by an enamoured public to be the real deal, the neo-Libertines ready to shake us out of our postmodern malaise with rough and ready North-London rock, have fallen off the wagon somewhat.
It is clear to see how one could to come to this view. Second Album Syndrome is a real enough thing, and it could be said that Tribes have come down with a pretty bad case of it. It all seems like quite a standard formula: British band records first album. Is relatively successful. Goes out to the States to record second album and achieve more widespread fame. Does so. So why has it not happened here?
Well for one, the American influence on ‘Wish to Scream’ has not been conducive to the development of their stadium rock style. Rather, their new music sounds almost too polished, too mid-tempo and too radio-friendly, the American pearly white to the British snaggletooth; a change that does not particularly lend itself to the leather-jacket niche they had begun to occupy in the British Indie Scene. Listen to ‘Street Dancing’, ‘World of Wonder’, ‘Never Heard of Graceland’ or pretty much the last half of the album and then compare it with ‘Whenever’ on ‘Baby’ and disagree with me. Go on, do it. Oh wait you can’t. Exactly.
That is not to say that ‘Whenever’ represents the whole of ‘Baby’, there was some pretty extensive criticism levelled at that album as well; the most overarching of which was the fact that the band had a lot of potential but needed to cut the filler on their next album to truly ‘make it’, as it were. I would say that this criticism still applies to ‘Wish to Scream’.
Though I do enjoy ‘Dancehall’, ‘Get Some Healing’ and ‘How the Other Half Live’, songs which are all about big choruses and feel good factor; two of these were released as singles beforehand though; removing them from the album reveals a musical body that it would be pretty hard to appropriate to Tribes, it all sounds generic, to put it bluntly. Please do not look to these songs for a meaningful quote for a tattoo, you will not find one.
But this is where the pendulum swings back, to the other side of the debate. Tribes have a real opportunity to fill the post-Libertines gap in the British Indie scene, one that I cannot see an Americanised radio-rock band doing. As I have said, several of the songs have real value and are highly played in my iTunes library, and I would urge you to have a listen yourself because they are easy to listen to and quite fun.
Tribes have potential. But how long can one ride on that alone, without any real accomplishment? It remains to be seen. If they focus less on the production side of their next album, and more on the content, I can really see them becoming a major force in music.
By Dan Hatton