Graven is, in actuality, Matty McKechnie and since 1999, he has put out consistently great and interesting music. He explores different styles and different genres with each release. For Simple Complex, he goes for a more stripped-back, sparse rock sound. He also makes excellent use of fuzz guitar, a sound that I haven’t heard for quite a while and I am glad he does it and that he has brought back the sound.
McKechnie is smart enough to not stick to one sound on the album. On this album, there is some straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll (“Exploded”), pop (“Music Magic”, and “Graven” which starts off sounding a little like “Ticket To Ride”), a bit of folk (“Wish Star”) and the odd ballad (“Betty”). In the end he comes up with a very cohesive and listenable album. It certainly keeps the listener interested. McKechnie flows from one style to the other with a great deal of ease, which demonstrates his excellent songwriting abilities.
Of course, the assistance of top notch players helps a great deal as well. The album also benefits from Joel Plaskett’s excellent ability to mix the music so there is a natural flow. Plaskett also allows McKechnie’s voice to be front and centre, especially in full on rock arrangements. And his voice should be front and centre. He has a lot to say and he writes brilliant lyrics to go with the strong melodies. For example, the title track, “Simple Complex”, which opens with “Simple Complex I don’t check my texts/Got an algorithm for dealing with my friends.” it is clever and a very effective way of expressing himself
McKechnie mixes up the sounds even within songs. “Betty” starts off sounding like it is going into more of a dance/beat arena and yet ends up being a very melodic, lovely song featuring very nice piano, courtesy of Jeff Gay. It all comes together in this beautiful song, and is the best possible way in which to end the album.
From beginning to end, Simple Complex is full of surprises. It transitions from the fuzz sound of a 1960s guitar to many different sounds throughout the album. With a strong vocal performance and stellar playing, Simple Complex is a brilliant album. And the beauty of the album is in its title. Complex, in many ways, but far from simple. McKechnie is an incredible talent, who has just delivered his best album.
SPILL ALBUM REVIEW: GRAVEN – SIMPLE COMPLEX