Album Review: The Tisburys – Exile On Main Street

The Philly five-piece take a leap forward on their third album, mixing the scale of Springsteen with the immediacy and intimacy of 90s college rock

The radio static and immediate Springsteenisms that open The Tisburys’ third album can’t help but suggest one of the best albums to ever come out of Philadelphia. But where Marah’s sublime Kids In Philly used Bruce as a jumping off point for ragged roots rock, The Tisburys are a slicker proposition, swinging for the fences with chiming keys and a sax solo that feels possessed by the spirit of Clarence Clemons.

The Tisburys - "Language Of Luxury" (Official Lyric Video)

‘Second Sign’ shifts both the tempo and the mood, its swaying country rhythm not unlike Counting Crows circa This Desert Life. Those are already some lofty reference points in just two songs, enough to give the mistaken impression that The Tisburys are just the sum of their influences. But these guys don’t pillage their forebearers or dress up in their clothes. Instead, their presences linger in the Philly quintet’s sensibilities and general ambience.

The Tisburys - "Garden" (Official Music Video)

‘Garden’ is a case in point. It’s a rollicking song with a cracking chorus and a barnburner of a guitar solo, so uncool it’s gone all the way back to being cool. It makes you think of the bands you loved in 1996, rather than actually sounding like any of them. The Tisburys even took to Twitter to ask their fans to suggest 90s bands for them to send the song to. You’d have forgiven some of those bands for wondering if they’d just uncovered a lost nugget from their glory days.

The Tisburys - "On The Run In Harmony, NJ" (Official Lyric Video)

What’s equally impressive is how the band shift tempos and mood without losing their identity. The aching ‘Ten Years On’ has a radio-ready sheen but retains an edge via Tyler Asay’s wounded voice, while the wonderfully moody ‘On The Run In Harmony, NJ’ sounds like Modest Mouse recording the theme for a Law & Order spin-off. Third single ‘Language Of Luxury’ is a joyous pop song with shades of Michael Stipe fronting the E-Street Band.

At their core, The Tisbury’s are an unabashedly 90s band operating 30 years out of time. You can picture Gin Blossoms sitting next to Wilco and The Connells on their shelves, the tattered Recovering The Satellites t-shirt in the wardrobe. It’s a decade that’s long been sneered at by those still mystified by how many of us spent that long in thrall to Toad The Wet Sprocket, but time has come back around to that era of college rock and judged it more kindly. The Tisburys are living proof that there’s a goldmine down there. They’re the ones digging it out, polishing it up and turning it into works of art.

Exile On Main Street is out to buy and stream on 16 September.