Big Tribe’s debut, From the Fringes, introduced the music world at large to a musical force that doesn’t announce itself with trumpets and tons of ballyhoo but, instead, takes a roundabout way of lodging themselves in your consciousness. They were obviously talented songwriters who possessed enough talent to invoke the familiar in a distinctive fashion, but on their sophomore effort In This Together, Big Tribe take that creative debut and expand upon it. This is a brave collection open to any audience and brimming over with lyrical and musical intelligence we seldom hear enough of in these diminished times. The twelve songs on the band’s second album are musically challenging and showcase a variety of voices and approaches that many much more visible and longer-standing bands only aspire to. The creativity fueling Big Tribe’s songwriting is apparent from the first track to last.
They begin this effort on a strong note. “Martha” reaches far lyrically and hits all of its musical marks with vocals that may not immediately impress, but will grow on listeners with repeated listens. Singer Peter Panyon has a loose, inviting quality to his voice quite different than what a modern audience might expect, but his phrasing grounds the unusual sound of his voice in familiar territory. “All In This Together” opens with impressive and relaxed harmonies before it transitions into a light rock track with confident drumming and the same easy-going, but undoubtedly talented, vocal harmonies alternating with another personable Panyon vocal. “The Final Boat Out” is one of the biggest moments for electric guitar on In This Together, but it’s never so overbearing that it becomes what the song is about. Instead, the lyrics revisit some of the same themes and, certainly, the lyrical complexity heard in the opener, though its set in much more traditional storytelling aspects than before and shorn of the symbolism pervading the entirety of the first track.
“I Want To Be With You” is obviously cast in the love song tradition, but Big Tribe aren’t content with merely spewing out a tired variation on that reliable formula. The lyrical content gives the subject matter a different hue, but more than that, the stop-start musical arrangement invests the song with a feel distinct from the typical entry in this genre. “How the Mind Wanders” is, arguably, In This Together’s finest moment. Bonnie Eyler’s sensitively rendered vocal is alone worth the price of admission, The lyrics are exceptionally well written and delve deep into the experience of love’s disappointments without leaning on any of the tropes so common to the subject matter. “You Lied”, along with “The Final Boat Out”, showcases Big Tribe exerting their underrated rock muscle in a way quite unlike any other song on In This Together, but the real highlight of this performance is Bonnie Eyler’s gritty and utterly believable singing.
“July Carol”, the album’s lead-off single, has deceptive musical power, but the bulk of its appeal comes from intelligent and often quite clever songwriting. They conclude the album with another bit of clever songwriting, “The Boys of Autumn”, but this paean to baseball seems a little lyrically out of place when compared with the preceding eleven songs. There is something good to be said, however, for ending an often serious In This Together on such an unreservedly upbeat note. It has often been said, but there truly is something for everyone on In This Together and Big Tribe has crafted quite a solid follow-up to their debut.
9 out of 10 stars.