Vinyl Vlog 640

Vinyl Vlog 640

Thursday, 07 March 2024
The Complicators – s/t – “86’ed”

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into The Complicators’ self-titled album. While it’s very easy for any critic to come off as surprised when a band reassembles a set of well-used, time-honored musical cliches and presents something which works, it’s far more difficult to find the flaw which ultimately causes that very familiar structure to fall apart and/or come off as completely irredeemable.How does one do it? How does one point to the problem which ultimately caused the house of cards to fall, while a similar band/album was successful? The problems that may cause one album to completely fall apart aren’t always easy to point to but, on The Complicators’ self-titled album, the fatal flaw in the music is easy to find: the problem lies wholly with singer/shouter Quincy Atkinson.

As soon as Atkinson opens his mouth in the opening cut of the A-side of The Complicators, the problem is clear; the guitars, bass and drums that support the singer are all melodic slabs of the finest punk fare, but Atkinson – who comes in far too high up in the mix and in a wholly invasive manner – completely derails the band’s running.

To be perfectly clear here: the problem lies in Atkinson’s performance and place in the mix – not his presence. His growling, near-guttural snarl renders his lyrics nearly incomprehensible and, because his voice is so high up in the mix, it swallows (or at least colors) everything else and, after that three and a half minutes (the duration of “Pressure” – the opening cut’s run-time), some listeners may already have had enough – but that’s only the first cut on the album.

As rocky as the A-side starts, there is not a whole lot of effort made by the band to try and rectify The Complicators‘ movement, thereafter. “K.Y.H.U.” [short for “Keep Your Hands Up” –ed] features a great drum performance that is still out-shouted by Atkinson – who also blots out the guitars and bass in the song – and while “Blink Of An Eye” finds the album’s producer turning up all the levels to try and at least match the singer, the result only “sort of” works as it produces the most listenable song on the side. “Trolls” follows that ground made by backsliding, unfortunately, and the side ends up wheedling its way to a close with Atkinson belting petty kiss-offs like “I don’t give a shit” in a tone that just ends up sounding like the great ballad of the sore loser.

As roughly as the A-side of The Complicators plays, the B-side features exactly no improvement – from start to finish. “Working Man” leads off with some more incendiary drumming and a solid center of thematic disillusionment (see lines like, “What happened to you? You were such a tough guy,” and, “What will you do with your life?” and comes dangerously close to succumbing to its own inferiority complex (it would have – had the song run longer than three minutes and twenty-two seconds) but, happily, the band does manage to steal some success from what could easily have been a completely wasted effort with “86ed.” “86ed” holds up well and has the good sense to not play over two and a half minutes, and “Time Has Come” manages to not sound too vocally laden, somehow, in spit of the fact that nothing about the band’s performance has really changed, thereby illustrating that the foibles so clearly apparent on this album were conscious decisions that the band and producer made. In spite of that, throw one more brick into this damned voyage (entitled “Street Diamonds”) before leaving listeners to walk away with them – or from them. One does get the impression that the band did put effort into the creation of this album, but they were wise enough to know when to cut their losses. Whether or not that is actually true will remain unclear until either the band reappears with another effort, or its members show up elsewhere – but those who run front-to-back with The Complicators may find themselves quickly hoping that the band gets relegated to the domain of urban myth before they have a chance to make a follow-up album. That way, the band and album can remain viewed as the sort of thing that everyone gets to think didn’t happen. [Bill Adams]


The Complicators’ self-titled album is out now. Buy it here on Pirates Press’ official site.

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