Right from the first few bars of the titular opening track, The Tribe set out a stall of street soul vibes, dance grooves, funky back beats and ska guitar lines. But more than that there is a sunshine warmth and party-driven nature to the music that they make. The ska, hip-hop and reggae references that underpin a lot of the album may be styles borne in crucibles of unrest and troubles but The Tribe take those same sounds and forge them into something more widely accessible, more celebratory, more fun. And that is no belittling of what they do, far from it, I’m merely saying that in the hands of well-honed songwriters and experienced musicians, those same versatile sounds can be forged into new, brighter and more infectious shapes.
That said, songs such as Break do explore deeper ideas and do so against the funkiest of grooves and somewhat unexpected rock guitar drives and there are everyday, street level social commentary and character sketches peppered throughout the lyrics but by and large what you come to the band for is to party, and this is the perfect soundtrack.
One of the things I fear when venturing into such music territories is that inevitable counterpoint between the sweet female choruses and the drop into mumbled, incoherent rap normally trying too hard to be edgy and cool but normally coming off as ill-conceived and illiterate. The Tribe, however, are a world away from that and the contrast of Kirsty’s street soul singing and A J’s raped deliveries works perfectly forming logical balances within the song, complimentary rather than conflicting.
But The Tribes biggest trick is accessibility. If dance or hip-hop is your thing then this is album is a natural choice for you, ska fans will find that it falls into their comfort zones and pop fans will love it too. Even those more at home with their “white boy with guitar” music (like me) will quickly warm to the fun and fanfare that emanates from this album and for that segment of music fans this can be seen as a gateway album, one that invites you in to sample other albums more seeped in the sounds found here just as Gnarls Barkley did with St Elsewhere or the much maligned Kanye West did with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And I don’t think an album could find itself in better company than that.