Howler ‘America Give Up’ / Tribes ‘Baby’ – Reviews

3 Feb

America Give Up by Howler

Howler are nearly as desperate to be the new Strokes as Rough Trade (who flew half way around the globe to sign them after hearing a demo) and NME are for them to be the new Strokes. As The Flaming Lips once sang ‘It’s a good time for superman’ and right now, according to some, Howler are the best fit for that costume. Except they aren’t. ‘America Give Up’ is a fun album but it isn’t going to change anyone’s life – it simply isn’t good enough. Singer, Jordan Gatesmith, has a grating, nasal voice and it’s given far too much room in the mix. The songs are almost all decent but rarely anything more than that (although rarely anything less either). The production is shambolic but in a controlled way – organized chaos, etc. Still, ‘Back of Your Neck’, ‘Beach Sluts’ and ‘This One’s Different’ make this a worthy listen. In these moments the group’s buzzsaw energy makes for an infectious and likeable debut. Is this it? no it isn’t. America Give Up? Not quite yet. However – Howler will keep you happily distracted for half an hour, and that’s enough for the time being.

6.5/10

Baby by Tribes

Tribes first came to my attention nearly two years ago, when some seriously lo-fi, mostly acoustic, demos appeared online. I was very excited. These were emotive, powerful and dangerously catchy tunes. Last January, in the band’s first interview with the NME, they said they were desperate to sign to a major label. They craved success. They wanted to be stadium sized. Therefore, the first two tracks on this album are the very same songs that first grabbed me by the neck eighteen months ago, only they’ve been given a big budget, widescreen makeover. Sure, they aren’t as good as the original versions, but ambition is not something to be ridiculed, and the versions that appear on ‘Baby’ still sound brilliant, and now, spectacularly epic.

‘Whenever’ and ‘We Were Children’ are the songs in question, both odes to growing up, that hit the nail on the head in more than a few instances (‘If you forgave me I could sleep at night, knowing I’d lived a good life’ or ‘these things happen, we were children in the mid 90’s’), and here they introduce a remarkably solid run of songs that are as self-assured, hard rocking and anthemic as anything released over the past twelve months. This is how they made debuts in the decade referenced above.

The album can be divided into two halves; slow songs and fast songs, and there really isn’t much else in between. This means that ‘Baby’ is a slightly two-dimensional album – but then some of the greatest pleasures in life are two dimensional, so there is nothing wrong with that. Of the faster songs, the two recent singles ‘Sappho’ and ‘When My Day Comes’ shine brightest thanks to their hummable choruses and guitar hero theatrics. Of the slower songs, ‘Nightdriving’ (an emotional ode to a childhood friend who committed suicide) hits hardest, whilst ‘Corner of an English Field’ is a smile inducing homage to britpop. Best of all perhaps is ‘Himalaya’, a song that takes a fine stab at being a power ballad and just about pulls it off.

Things tail off slightly towards the end; ‘Alone or With Friends’ is a bit of a non-event, and ‘Bad Apple’, the weakest song on the album, makes for a bit of an anticlimactic ending. But front loaded or not, ‘Baby’ is a very impressive debut that by rights should (but almost certainly won’t – not your fault guys) send Tribes crashing into the big time. Ok, this is an old-fashioned record that occasionally plays it a bit too safe, and maybe it is as cliched as its title, but we need this band; see how they strut about on stage in ripped jeans and make up, see how the guitarist dates supermodels and Scarlet Johanson, see how they live every cliche and love it – they are traditional rock stars, and in 2011 there are very few of those about.

8/10

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