In many ways, Lilith Fair was more a curse than a blessing. Sure, it
seemed great at the time. It was seen as a vehicle for female
empowerment, allowing women to break the male dominance of popular music
and claim a piece for themselves on their own terms. But the fallout
from Lilith has proven to hinder most women more than it has helped.
For whatever reason, misogyny suddenly became acceptable, as angry white
males sought to rectify their perceived slights, which in turn led to
people like Christina Aguilera being seen as acceptable role models for
young women everywhere. Even worse, from a musical perspective, any
female-led groups that don't adhere to the current bouncy pop sound are instantly labeled as neo-folkie waifs, forever damning them as imitators of artists like
Sheryl Crow and Paula Cole.
If this turns out to be the case with Trespassers William, it would be
extraordinarily unfortunate. Yes, the band did play at the
1999 Lilith Fair. And yes, lead vocalist Anna-Lynne Williams' voice
does have some similarities to that of Sarah McLachlan; it's strong and
emotive, with a slight warble. But to dismiss Trespassers William so abruptly would be to ignore an
extremely interesting band. Rather than overpowering the music,
Williams' vocal stylings are blended seamlessly into guitarist Matt Brown's
noodlings, creating soundscapes that have purpose and direction. More importantly, Brown does an
excellent job of keeping listeners on their toes, throwing in little
surprises, like the guitar squall at the end of "Desert" or the
moderately harsh riffs underlying "It's Been A Shame", Similarly, the
bluesy riff of "Broken" buoys Williams, giving her a strength which may not
have come out in different circumstances.
Ultimately, the Lilith trap is hard to avoid. It will take a band
of enormous stature, led by a very strong female, to break it. Trespassers William may not be the band do it, for as has been previously stated, Williams possesses too many of the mannerisms upon which detractors typically seize. This doesn't, however, mean that the album is
lacking; in fact, Anchor will likely prove to be one
of the better albums this year. It's a wonderful slice of pop-rock, with just
enough new ideas to make it really, really interesting.