Trawlers kick off with the band proving how chaotic they can be. It almost plays like a challenge to listeners, warning them that if they can’t handle the sinister intensity of the opening tracks, they might be safer finding something else to listen to.
‘Meningococcal’ is potentially the darkest and weirdest track on the album and an incredibly bold move, to begin with. Based around a revolving bassline, the track ebbs and flows for more than six minutes but never settles. It is filled with eerie guitar chords, rattling percussion, and monotonous spoken vocals. It plays like the soundtrack to some horror story.
‘Meningococcal’ bleeds into ‘Windows,’ which, despite sharing a similar level of intensity, flips things on its head. Driven by a pounding rhythm section, the track is packed with abrasive guitars, angsty vocals, and some terrifying lead riffs - and when frontman Tom Walsh sings, “all this chaos is such bad news,” it feels like a proper introduction to Bollard. Followed by tracks like the sprawl of ‘Some Familiar Spectre,’ the mess of warped guitars on ‘Art Approximates Life’’ or blown out ‘En Bloc,’ it’s clear that wild and threatening is Bollard in their most natural form.
However, there are some moments of calm amongst the treachery of Trawlers. ‘Ham’ finds Bollard at their least abrasive, with a tangle of guitars that might almost feel woozy if it weren’t for the track’s sinister undertones. ‘Touchline Fever’ is another moment where things cool down as Bollard weaves masterful guitar lines around each other.
However, the sudden bursts of noise that fill the track out remind us we can’t feel too safe anywhere on the album. Similarly, ‘Gloom’ is a lo-fi ditty that could almost be charming if it weren’t so dark - plus, as it leads into the album’s final track, ‘SPF 50+ Death’, it can only be foreboding. And rightfully so, the album’s closer lifts the intensity with another sprawl of guitars and pounding drums until Bollard’s jamming tendencies take over and the track meanders away.
The album highlight comes at ‘Yourself,’ perhaps the only moment where Bollard’s pop craft sneaks past the walls of sound. It’s still packed with noisy guitars, frantic playing, and an off-kilter beat, yet as Walsh’s passionate vocals cut through the murk, there’s wide-eyed energy that isn’t felt in the same way elsewhere. Overall, Trawlers is a chaotic and wild introduction to an exciting band - and although it can be a little challenging at times, with so much mayhem going on once you’re sucked in, it’s a difficult one to get back out of.
If you like: Sonic Youth, Gang Of Four.