Review Summary: Cute, simple, fun, and disposable debut for Relient K. You'll most likely forget about it once you hear one of the band's later albums.
Back in 2000, Relient K released their debut, a simple and cute pop album.
The band kicked off their career with fourteen songs filled with cultural references and a harmless sense of humor. In the first two songs we get Back to the Future and Marilyn Manson. By the time the last track closes, the band has mentioned Nancy Drew, late-80's sitcom Charles in Charge, *NSYNC, teenager magazine Seventeen, and -- of course -- the terrible Reliant K car the band named itself after. Honestly, most of the references are obvious and are never particularly clever or funny.
For whatever reason, in only about half of the album does the band write material with original lyrics, as opposed to tunes built around something from pop-culture. The song with the most interesting lyrics is probably Softer to Me, one of the only tracks to hint at the intelligence and creativity that is in RK's later albums.
Musically, the songs' form fit their function: simple and direct. Most songs use basic pop song formulas. The band works hard on the vocal harmonies throughout, but they only sound good on occasion. For example, Charles in Charge is very pleasant and the guitar solo is a nice touch. The song My Girlfriend, on the other hand, just sounds weak.
Relient K would eventually refine their sound into something more textured and interesting than we hear on this album. The moments of the album that are the best are when the band breaks the formula and makes songs that don't fit the verse-bridge-chorus-repeat model: Softer to Me sounds more like the band would for the next few albums. Staples has some inspired moments and is split in half with an instrumental interlude.
The best song on the album, however, is one that is simple and fits the formula: Hello McFly. The melody is interesting, the harmonies exceptional, and the lyrics -- while a few steps down from what we'd see on the next album -- are intereating and articulate.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this album is the tone of the lyrics. It hints at the tone that the band would take in the future. It's clearly Christian, but there's a humility and grace to everything. It doesn't force it down your throat. They're not trying to convert you, just writing songs about what matter to them.
Mostly, though, this CD will spend most of its time in its case once you hear any of Relient K's later albums.