Review Summary: humble beginnings.
The three Trespassers William LPs chronicle the band’s maturation rather distinctly – where Different Stars
shows the band better handling their attempts at profundity and Having
being a subsequent development of their song-writing prowess, Anchor
seems almost juvenile alongside the two latter records. The ‘slowcore’ elements of Trespassers William’s music that comes to light with Different Stars
is absent from Anchor
’s repertoire; the streamlining of the band’s style has not yet occurred, and though melancholic constituents of later albums can be picked out in certain songs, Anchor
is for the most part a female-fronted alternative rock album toying with both indie and folk elements, resembling anything between The Cranberries
and Cat Power
What best explains the difference between Anchor
and its follow-up Different Stars
lies in the one song that occurs in both: ‘Anchor’. The song was originally written much before Different Stars
, and despite appearing on Anchor
it was re-recorded with slightly different instrumentation and tempo for the band’s sophomore record. While both versions are very well executed, noting the differences between them is the only real step in distinguishing between the two albums; the Different Stars
version is very dreamy, fitting in perfectly with the rest of the album, while the debut’s version is much more up-beat (disregarding the fact that it’s a sad song), its instrumentation far more prominent and in the foreground than the re-recording.
Opening track ‘I Know’, arguably the album’s best track, is reminiscent of later work with its lush arrangements and forlorn subject matter, yet the distinctive folk elements of the song set it apart from their shoegaze inspired albums to come. In contrast, tracks like ‘Cabinet’ are very unusual for a listener acquainted with the band’s later albums – hinting at a country aesthetic (something vaguely apparent in other tracks such as ‘Washes Away’, through the band’s light folk fixation), the track is crafted around the typical alternative rock conventions that were making rounds in the mid to late 90s.
Although it’s the truth, saying that Anchor
is Trespassers William’s worst album doesn’t really undermine it in any way. The band gently experiments with various styles within their alternative framework, and the results that we see in Different Stars
are well worth it. Nonetheless, Anchor
is still a very enjoyable record – the strength of Anna-Lynne Williams’ voice is naturally its selling point, and much like their later albums, several songs will always stick out to the listener and define the album for them.