Complicated Shirt - Compromising Compositions (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Complicated Shirt

Compromising Compositions (2007)


Credit where it is due -- Complicated Shirt does not truly bear resemblance to any other band active today, and singer Drew Benton is able to ramble and meander through 23 minutes of music without singing a word. Don't get the wrong impression here, vocals are present, but the spoken logjam of SAT words and obscure references is one of the most head-scratching approaches that I've ever come across.

It's not a matter of whether or not the jangly instrumentation fit's the vocal delivery, because through some miracle of music they actually fuse together quite well, but it's instead a matter of these songs being enjoyable and not annoying, and that's where the band falters a bit.

The rollicking fills and crackling dissonance of "Today's Front Page" show a band that's in complete control, quite aware of the cacophony being created and at the same time able to keep it at a reasonable level. But it's never the instrumentation that was the issue, far from it actually. "The Thawing Neck" is a subdued effort with a plaintive and easy-going rhythm. At only a minute and a half, the track is the perfect length to offer a reprieve from the often-overwhelming feel of the most fast-paced tracks.

As I mentioned before, however, the problem isn't in the music itself but rather vocals and the lyrics.

I apologize if I'm missing some deeper meaning here, but from an average listener's perspective, "An unfenestrated monocle wrapped around the head, all the world's irate pirates wetting / Jolly Roger's bedspreads, nodding off like Pez dispensers / Advancing like old tanks, instead of walking planks of breadcrumbs on their caterpillar treads." Come on. Seriously? It's not even so much the lyrics as the overly-annoying way in which they're delivered. The half-speak/half-howl technique was old after about 37 seconds, and let me tell you, it doesn't get any better from there. It's like an aimless, meandering, voice that happened to be tracked over some solid post-punk background.

A bit of a departure from the normal Alone Records catalog, and this time, it wasn't for the better. No amount of solid instrumentation could save the clunky and out-of-place vocals, and no amount of time spent listening could warm me up to them either.