London hype band Tribes rocks up at Mojo, but Getintothis’ Will Fitzpatrick finds the spectre of the past lingering a wee bit too heavy.
The ghost of Merseybeat still haunts this city.
It hangs ominously over bands who wouldn’t dare breathe its name for fear of being labelled retro Scousepop caricatures.
Take The City Walls, for instance: a folk-tinged duo who cite Bob Dylan (natch) and Ron Sexsmith as influences.
A hearty bluegrass stomp, sweetened by expert use of fiddle, banjo and mandolin… we’re talking country, right?
But crucially something keeps them mired in the Mersey sound. It could be the harmony arrangements, or perhaps the natural sound of their voice.
Hell, it could just be a certain je ne sais quoi that this hack can’t articulate. Still, as familiar this sound is, you’d be a bitter swine to suggest that it ain’t enduring. Or even endearing: The City Walls have got ‘future local heroes’ written all over ’em.
Such regional concerns do not befall All Mankind. Instead they appear to draw inspiration from the likes of U2 and The Killers – every song a stadium-sized anthemic swell. Or at least, that’s the intention.
We all know the drill with this stuff: chiming guitars, soaring vocals, etc etc etfuckingcetera. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this Sydney quartet per se, although the bassist (who seems to have wandered in from a RHCP tribute band audition) could quite reasonably claim to be the most irritating performer of all time.
It’s just that painting with brushstrokes this broad can be tricky – try appealing to everyone and you’ll end up appealing to no-one. Incidentally, no-one seems to have come up with a lazy genre tag for this sort of thing yet. Let’s try ‘hubris-core’: the empty sound of chests being beaten once the hearts have been removed. It’ll never catch on.
Anyway. Tribes are the band everyone is here to see tonight, and the roar that greets their arrival nearly blows the roof off Mojo.
It’s not difficult to spot why – handsome scruffs, vaguely-grungy guitars, pure Britpop choruses… they’re basically a 90s revival cocktail.
The only problem being that they don’t deliver much of an intoxicating kick. Sure, the likes of Girlfriend are catchy enough, and it’s pretty hard to actively dislike the wee scamps.
But even with an eardrum-lacerating wall of sound, surrounded by a more-than-enthusiastic crowd, it still feels a little flat. Chutzpah, panache; call it what you like, but they’re missing that vital something that transforms a decent-enough band into a great one.
If you’re happy with the notion that Yuck represent a Generation Y Dinosaur Jr (wait, bear with me), then Tribes are equivalent to Terrorvision before all that Tequila nonsense: melodic, fun, reliable, and ultimately forgettable. Think they’ll prove Getintothis wrong? Let’s hope so.
Picture by Marie Hazelwood.
Peter Guy reviews Tribes at The Shipping Forecast.