Pete Lawrie’s “How Could I Complain?”
In a world of smooth and polished voices, continuous pop falsettos and folk crooning, there is no Pete Lawrie. But that doesn’t mean he’s off somewhere screaming into a mic about his troubled youth or coating your inner ear with brutish revelry, either. No, in fact, I’m not sure where you’d place Pete Lawrie, but I […]Beth Yeckley
out of 10
How Could I Complain? EP
April 26, 2010
In a world of smooth and polished voices, continuous pop falsettos and folk crooning, there is no Pete Lawrie. But that doesn’t mean he’s off somewhere screaming into a mic about his troubled youth or coating your inner ear with brutish revelry, either. No, in fact, I’m not sure where you’d place Pete Lawrie, but I imagine it would be a place where tenacity grows and wild ambition roams.
The first track “How Could I Complain,” which is also the namesake of the EP, is a bursting tune that instantly greets listeners’ ears with the coarse sound of Lawrie’s voice. This song definitely strikes on the edge of fistfights, with heavy rhythm and mountain-jam qualities fueled by the percussion. With a soul-baring countenance, he sings, “Well I have seen the summer in the spring time / I’ve kissed the girls that stayed out in the rain / And I can count a good man as a friend of mine / So how could I complain?”
On this four-song EP, Lawrie builds an A-B-A-B pattern, alternating upbeat songs with soulful and slow meditations that make for an interesting journey. “Jimmy and the Birds on Fire” is an instant mood-killer as the second track. While not a dismissible song, it definitely requires some patience to ease into it, especially when Lawrie starts hitting higher notes that audibly escape his natural British inflection and smoky allure. But the last two minutes of the song are totally redeemed as backing vocals enter and balance his softer approach.
The latter half of the EP finishes strong, with “Panic” producing texture-heavy clinging, clanging, and clapping that create a rail yard aesthetic. Lawrie’s vocals are chant-like, singing, “For that I feel I’ve earned the right to say / Unwrap your arms from me / Lord knows I’ve tried to be free / I owe you nothing / Can’t you see / Come on and take a shot at me.”
He finishes with “Paperthin,” which is a haunting song that absolutely draws to surface any feelings I’ve been harboring for a good reminiscing. He sings, “To crave the past is not a sin / There’s tomorrow / It’s a deep end jump right in / So you’re not scared / Well that’s not true / Nobody’s tough / Well not me and you / We’re paperthin.” There’s a spirit of lightness in the song, composed of delicate play on the keys and the percussion. And he slips into moments of harmonizing that add richness to his vocal capacities, as he sings on, “When it’s cold outside / When then night draws in / When you need someone / When you’re paperthin.”
I would definitely consider Lawrie’s How Could I Complain? to be a worthy venture into the world of raspy, seasoned vocals with a heavy dose of soul-infused pop. He knows how to jam, and he knows how to cry… but I’d be interested to hear a full-length work to really get a sense of his mood when spread out over 10 or so songs.