There's a lot of really great thorny complex bizarre freaky shit out there, and I love that stuff. I love the overwhelming nature of Decasia (which has one of the best final ten minutes of any music piece I've ever heard) and the raw crazy trance power of Animal Collective, I like Jason [Grote] and Shelia [Callaghan's] writing and Songs From the Second Floor is like my favorite movie ever. What all of those works and artists have in common is that the complexity (or thorniness, or experimentalness or whatever we're calling it these days) is fully integrated with the thematic concerns at the root of the work. Furthermore, as Douglas Wolk talks about in Reading Comics, by to some extent frustrating easy conventions, it leaves room for the work to have a different kind of impact, closing one door opens a few others.
What gets me, however, is work that embraces thorniness for its own sake and doesn't really have anything of value to offer beyond it. Now sometimes something is so formally groundbreaking that that's enough to sustain a work of art, but very very rarely. This line is (of course) subjective. I've said many times that I don't think there's much to Blasted or Cleansed beyond the brutality directed towards the audience (although perhaps Soho Rep's upcoming production of the former will cure me of this notion). And part and parcel of my anger at this is the spurious counter argument that claims that saying "work X doesn't really do anything beyond be thorny" is to be either anti-intellectual, anti-complexity, anti-challenging art, or anti-art itself. Frankly, I think that's horseshit designed to invalidate a viewpoint we disagree with.