Friday, September 16, 2005


There’s a gaming connection in this story.

A few weeks ago, Paul Costello of Groovalicious Games ( recommended a band called “Tribe.”


I ordered two of their albums—“Abort” (1991) and “Sleeper” (1993). I listened to Abort first and thought it was a solid album, but nothing to rave about. Great albums create this feeling in me, this kind of locked-on hypnotic effect that’s very hard to describe. It’s also totally subjective, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

A few days later, I listened to Sleeper.

As it turns out, at least in my opinion, Sleeper is one of the great undiscovered rock albums. Great hooks, terrific guitar, brilliant lyrics—it’s the sound of a band that is absolutely, totally sure of what they’re doing. It’s wonderful.

I’d tell you what they sound like, but it’s very hard to make a comparison. If you remember the song “Cannonball” by The Breeders, the vocals are not entirely dissimilar, with the difference being that Sleeper has seven or eight fantastic songs instead of one.

It’s a lousy example, though. Their sound is uniquely intense and very hard to categorize, and they’re very much a band, not just a lead singer with some anonymous session players.

I became very curious about this group after listening to Sleeper about thirty times in a row, so I started poking around. Trying to trace this trail after ten years is not that easy, but I found this over at
Tribe was one of the most popular bands in Boston in the late '80s and early '90s, but was never able to translate its local drawing power and multiple local awards into national success.

Man, history is cruel. The short version is that Tribe was “the next big thing” for years, but somehow it never happened. They broke up in 1994.

Here’s the ironic thing, looking at it from ten year’s distance: they got screwed. Sleeper is a great, great album. They should have been big. Huge, really.

Here are a few more excerpts from (spliced together to give you an idea of the band’s sound):
Singer Janet LaValley…soaring voice…Bassist Greg LoPiccolo, guitarist Eric Brosius, and keyboardist (and occasional lead vocalist) Terri Barous wrote songs which combined power chords with dark lyrics and thick, goth-influenced keyboard textures. Drummer David Penzo rounded out the group.

Okay, I don’t get the goth reference (hell, I don't even know what "goth-influenced keyboard textures even means), because I don’t get that at all from listening to their music, but the power chords and dark lyrics are right on. And they have a sense of humor, too, writing the greatest rock song in history (okay, it’s a small category) about the Supercollider:
Goodbye Princeton
Goodbye CERN
He’s gone to Texas
To watch the holy fire burn
He’s gone to build
He’s gone to build the supercollider

What those lyrics don’t convey (besides a sense of humor) is that “Supercollider” is a driving, terrific rock song.

They had it all, really.

After the band broke up, Eric Brosius and Terri Barous got married. And started doing game soundtracks.

I told you there was a gaming connection.

They worked at a little company called Looking Glass. You might remember some of these games (and soundtracks):
--Thief: The Dark Project
--System Shock 2
--Thief: Deadly Shadows

That certainly doesn’t suck (and that’s not all the games they’ve worked on, by any means). After Looking Glass closed, they wound at up Irrational Games and worked on both of the Freedom Force soundtracks.

If you want to see the page on Tribe, here it is:

And here’s a link to Sleeper over at

I tried using Pandora to find similar music, but they only have Abort as part of the database, and I think the band’s sound matured greatly in the two years between Abort and Sleeper. So if you enjoy rock music, and want to hear a great band at their absolute peak, try Sleeper.

It's killer.

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