It’s curious that a rock trio as likeable and melodically and lyrically dynamic as The Complaints have passed their 20th anniversary, yet have only just released their fourth full length album. That’s probably testament to the relentless touring and fan base building (half of it prior to the social media age!) that Providence, RI based guitarist/frontman Dean Petrella, bassist Chris Cruz and Anthony Marotti have been doing to the tune of 200+ shows per year – including sharing the stage on occasion with superstar acts like Train, Collective Soul, 3 Doors Down and Young The Giant.
Over the years, their music has been compared to Tom Petty, Radiohead and Coldplay, but I’m also hearing a bit of the cool gritty Jon Bon Jovi soul dust in Petrella’s passionate vocals – whether he’s riding the edge atop easy-flowing jangly acoustic gems like “Hangin’ Out,” “Talk To Me” and “Breathe” or empowering the edgier anthemic rocker “Atlas (Carry You).” While their engaging, easily accessible vibe is mostly guitar driven, one of the most memorable tracks of the album – featuring Petrella’s at the peak of his emotional power – is the gorgeous piano ballad “Home.” Another cool conceit of Talk to Me is bookending the set with two very different spins on “The View,” a lament about how the joy of a relationship dissipates over time. The opener is a mid-tempo rocker that makes the sentiment seem lighthearted, like it’s okay that things have changed. The closing track “The View (Dark”) is a whole other animal, a slow, more painful burn with booming, militaristic drums and haunting atmospheres.
The Complaints show how a different arrangement can render the same song as two almost completely different messages. Yet that’s pretty much how the album grooves along lyrically throughout, balancing carefree, youthful no commitment message of “Hangin’ Out” with angst-filled, how to make things right type songs like “Breathe” and “Mountains.” If you’re new to The Complaints, Talk to Me is an irresistible entry point to the conversation!