Review Summary: Relient K grow up yet again and release their best album to date.
Five years ago, Christian pop-punkers Relient K released mmhmm
. After years of writing juvenile, poppy anthems for adolescents in WWJD
bracelets, Relient K decided to spontaneously mature with said record. Somewhere along the teeny-bopper yellow-brick road, Relient K became serious with their music and the results were immediately promising. The band traded goofy songs like "May the Horse Be With You" for aggressive, pensive tracks such as the unforgettable "Which to Busy, Us or the Hatchet?". Yet unfortunately for Relient K's dignity, this maturity was shortlived: two years later, along came Five Score and Seven Years Ago
, an album that, while still enjoyable, set the band back a few years in terms of stylistic choices, lyrical concepts and general execution. Did the man who wrote the emotional "I So Hate Consequences" really
write the lyrics "we should get jerseys 'cause we make a good team/But yours would look better than mine 'cause you're outta my league
"? Five Score and Seven Years Ago
was a legitimate regression. With this blip in Relient K's evolution in mind, it's with great delight that I can announce that Relient K are back on track again -- and they've never been better. Forget and Not Slow Down
finds Relient K writing catchy, pop-rock songs without falling prey to uselessness and outlandish statements again; it finds Relient K inarguably writing the best album of their career.
Forget and Not Slow Down
is decorated by the introduction of very prominent acoustic guitars and drastically improved vocal melodies (see the title track for confirmation). Pianos, handclaps, slightly dirty-but-not-distorted guitar tones and harmonies have been littered artistically throughout Relient K's trademark poppy sound on the record, making their overall dynamic a little more well-rounded and their appeal a thoroughly broadened. Songs like the almost indie-pop 'Candlelight', 'Over It' and 'Savannah' are jubilant exercises in infectious melodies and ridiculously invasive hooks, with each song boasting excellent performances from each member of the band (particularly vocalist Matt Thiessen). While no songs like the dissonant, driving 'I Need You' are present on Forget and Not Slow Down
, the album does make an effort to be feasibly loud (for pop-punk, that is). 'I Don't Need a Soul' and 'If You Believe Me' are high-energy, classic Relient K songs with just a pinch of extra tastefulness added, while the real winner of the beefier songs is 'Sahara', a riff-tastic, Aaron Gillespie-guested masterpiece of an aggressive tune that features both commendable vocal performances and laudable riffery from guitarist Matt Hoopes.
As a band, Relient K has never played together better. Gone are the ridiculous, palm-muted chords of 'Taking You With Me' and in are memorable, delay-ridden guitar riffs. Gone is the anticlimactic, predictable drumming of the past and in are the clever fills of new drummer Ethan Luck (who was, strangely enough, formerly a guitarist
for Demon Hunter). Yet the most important facet of Relient K's buoyant sound is undoubtedly vocalist Matt Theissen's distinctive voice. While the rest of the band construct a more than commendable performance together, Thiessen undoubtedly steals the show with his sometimes-sugary-othertimes-raspy croon. Breathing life into his always sincere and syllabically perfect lyrics, he takes hold of the album from the very first few notes and single-handedly escalates the record from being great to being fantastic.
Though it may be the best album Relient K will ever make, Forget and Not Slow Down
is certainly far from perfect. Filler tracks come in the form of the forgettable 'Part of It' and 'Therapy'. Both songs seem to be dumbed down versions of better songs on the record; songs that add nothing more than running time to an otherwise engaging record. Likewise, 'If You Believe Me' boasts a catchy chorus from the always-excellent The Classic Crime vocalist Matt MacDonald, but his vocal feature seems rushed during the lifeless chorus and it ultimately dampers the song. Lastly, 'This is the End' harks back to earlier Relient K material with it's driving sound and breve composition but it feels completely out of place amongst the rest of the band's newer concoctions -- it's left like a carrot in a corn field; completely out of place.
However, it's shortcomings are few and forgivable -- for what it's worth, Forget and Not Slow Down
is one of the most surprisingly solid releases of 2009 and Relient K's best work to date. In what is a very successful merger of a softer, more mature sound and Relient K's classic charm, the album succeeds in being catchy, sincere and grown-up all at once. From the lyrics, to the melodies and even to the album artwork, Relient K have grown up yet again with such good results that even mmhmm
pales strongly in comparison. Color me and detractors of Five Score and Seven Years Ago