If I had to choose one word to describe Tribal Days’ new record, “At Last,” it would be ethereal.
If I had to choose two, they’d be: Fucking beautiful.
Disclosure: I’ve been friends with Chris Gennone (rhythm guitar, vocals), Marshall Green (bass, backing vocals, flute), and Andrew Merclean (lead guitar) for years. They’ve changed band names, they’ve changed drummers more times than I can count (the rhythm guitarist for my band, Cris Slotoroff of The Deafening Colors, recorded most of the drum parts on “At Last”), and they’ve developed their style through hundreds of practices and shows.
I’ll be brief, because instead of reading this you should just listen to the album, which is streaming for free on Bandcamp and is available for download.
“At Last” is a fully realized, serious artistic statement by a band that has worked their asses off for years to put this album together. It begins with “6 am,” an ambient piece that begins quietly and leads perfectly into “American Trash,” the strongest single track on the album, with its lead guitar and flute harmonies (yeah, really), with Gennone’s earnest voice singing wonderfully imagistic and unique lyrics like, “my love is like a landfill,” and “it pours thunder, but it don’t rain on me,” and backed by Marshall Green who absolutely nails the backing vocals throughout the album. Merclean’s guitar sounds somehow both in-your-face and delicate at the same time.
Merclean’s leads stand out especially in “Bermuda,” a song that also features the saxophone work of Harrison Bieth, who plays on much of the album. Tribal Days has this ability to take instruments you might not expect to work together and make them work together—at one point in “Bermuda” Gennone’s vocals, Bieth’s saxophone and Merclean’s guitars are all locked into a harmony that fits perfectly over Slotoroff’s surf rock percussion, but one that might seem too cluttered if less well recorded—I’ve heard the demos of these songs, and I’ve heard them performed in dingy rock clubs with PA systems that don’t do bands like Tribal Days justice, and though always enjoyable, the mixing/mastering of Guy Parker took already good songs and made them great.
This isn’t just a well produced record, though, it’s well structured—there’s a cyclical feel to it, and it has interludes that harken back to that first hum in “6 am,” songs with titles like, “Driftwood,” and “Dusk,” the former of which features Green on piano and both of which show Bieth’s ability to make the saxophone sound like the soundtrack to a dream.
“Last Call,” which begins the final stretch of the album, continues with that dreamlike feel. Green’s backing vocals sound like prayers, as does the whole of the end of the penultimate track, “Cousteau.”
“Chasing Auroras,” the final track, fittingly ties everything together with the same ambiance we hear throughout. If “6 am” is the sound of birth, “Chasing Auroras,” is the sound of death. And they both sound so alike, so peaceful, so timeless.
There’s a spirit, or perhaps even a spirituality, that pervades the entire record—it’s as if Tribal Days is saying this music is our religion, and we want you to join us.
And, after listening, you’ll want to.