by Myles Tiessen
When you first look at the cover of Motorists’ debut LP Surrounded, the amalgamation of roads, bridges, and cars is clearly and deliberately messy. It’s a rat’s nest representative of the chaotic and relentless hustle and pressure we put ourselves through. The black and yellow contrast further adds to the anxiety-inducing nature of the art- like a thousand wasps are flying around, ready to strike. It’s eye-catching, powerful, and, most importantly, it’s a visual thesis for the album.
On Surrounded, Motorists blends cynicism, ennui, and apathy into a motley collection of songs built around the symptoms of unfettered technological innovation. Through the tune of power-pop, punk, post-punk, classic rock, and various other influences, Motorists express their supposition not with a quiet whisper but with a loud and proud shout.
The band’s creative wit pushes the themes further than your traditional misanthropes. They are aware enough to explore the possibilities made available by innovation and technology, and there isn’t a track that ever feels particularly dower. There are no melodramatic interludes or even Thom Yorke-style platitudes to wallow in. Lead vocalist Craig Fahner uses his experience on the road touring to simply point out how life is.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait long to figure out what the band wants you to hear. The album opener “Surrounded” spends a great deal of time dismantling any form of structured community it can find. From suburbia to communes, the narrator, clearly feeling thwarted, packs his bags and hits the road, looking for another opportunity in the next town over. It’s an enjoyable bop, and the outlaw country bones of this song play nicely with the punk aesthetic.
As the album progresses, the idealism of the band shines. On tracks like “Through to You.” Fahner expresses the need for genuine human connection. “I’ve been seeing through the lens of another eye to get through to you,” Fahner signs through a tight jangle-pop chorus.
Like a road trip down a web of highways and overpasses, Surrounded gives us a glimpse into the frailty of life. Motorists show us how anxiety and interpersonal relationships can become strained from years of overdependence on technology, but how a change of scenery or even a different outlook can help us grow and learn.