by Isaac Shur
It’s good that George Watsky is still making music. The 32-year-old rapper, singer, and writer has been a creative force to be reckoned with for quite some time. Watsky got his start as a slam poet on the HBO original series Def Poetry but quickly began utilizing his penmanship skills for rap and hip-hop. After the viral “Pale Kid Raps Fast” launched Watsky into tier-three internet fame, the San Francisco native proved he was far more than just a flash in the pan as he went on to release numerous albums, EPs, and mixtapes. Now he’s back for his fifth studio album, COMPLAINT.
Clocking in at a measly 9 tracks and 28 minutes, COMPLAINT stands in stark contrast to his last project, X Infinity, which ran for over an hour and fifteen minutes. Although X Infinity felt bloated, COMPLAINT is an overcorrection. Since more than half the album was released as singles, it feels more like we got an EP than an LP. Although some fans have speculated that the tiny 1.3 in the bottom right of the album cover hints that this project is the first of a trilogy, Watsky himself has neither confirmed nor denied this.
Aside from its slightly disappointing brevity, COMPLAINT delivers a mostly satisfying listening experience. The opening track and lead single “Welcome to the Family” is a sweet and heartwarming piece about opening yourself and your problems up to the support of those around you. The delicate, twinkling pianos perfectly encapsulate the welcoming feel that the song is going for here, as do Watsky’s well-composed harmonies. Other highlights include the pseudo-title track “No Complaints No Conversations” which will leave its catchy hook looping in your head for days. Watsky’s humor is also on display here with lyrical gems like “That shit just made me think so hard I couldn’t sleep a wink / Washed my red flags with my white flags and now all my laundry’s pink.”
However, the project has some lulls as well, due to lackluster cuts such as “All Like Whatever” which is little more than your average teenage crush song. It’s cute, corny, and skippable, which wouldn’t be so bad if there were more than nine tracks to begin with. The sad boy anthem “Limos 4 Emos” is similarly forgettable, which is unfortunate as it lies smack in the middle of the final three tracks, the other two of which are excellent. The dark and gritty “Feels Alright” showcases some of Watsky’s best lyrics on the album. Consider: “Santa’s in the North Pole doing fentanyl / No more good little boys so he meant to kill himself / But he couldn’t find a vein with the hot steel / He couldn’t find himself at all, bitch, he’s not real!” Watsky goes straight into the chorus from here asking the audience “Does it feel fucked up?” All I can say is… yep, it does. And then there’s the closer, “Whitecaps,” which finishes off the album by comparing the end of Watsky’s precarious relationship to a shipwreck. On paper, this might this might sound like a recipe for cliches, but Watsky manages the turn the ship metaphor into a broader representation of human conflict.
Overall my biggest complaint (see what I did there?) with the album besides the length is the lack of Watsky’s poetry, and I’m not just referring to literal spoken word tracks which are typically present on Watsky’s albums. The lyrics on COMPLAINT focus on funny quips or relationship commentary, while foregoing any more nuanced subject matter. The result is that the album feels sort of immature and out of place compared to the rest of his work, which explored a myriad of meaningful topics ranging from his family, suicide and mental health, changing technology, gun violence, the music industry, and race relations. Ultimately though, COMPLAINT still provides fans with a well-crafted addition to the Watsky canon.