I have been listening to Relient K for a good long while. When I first found myself going to youth group, their cheeky pop punk church friendly anthems were just what I needed. As I grew older, so did they, and their music continued to speak to me in a powerful way. Albums like Mmhmmm and “Five Score and Seven Years Ago” are albums that I still go back to on a regular basis. Those albums showed that Relient K was capable of maturing and changing into something more than just a pop-punk novelty. They gave their lyrics a more suited musical stage to stand on, and showed that they could do serious just as well as they could do silly. Unfortunately, I feel they got a bit stuck. “Forget and Not Slow Down” was somewhat of a disappointment for me, due to plain fact that at least three of the songs sounded so much like previous material, I had to go back and check to make sure they were in fact different. It was starting to get formulaic. So, with their newest album, “Collapsible Lung” I was ready to welcome in a change and at least for a few songs on this album, I feel like the changes that were made were awesome. Unfortunately, those songs only make up 3 of the 11 tracks contained on this overall underwhelming album.
The album starts with the hopeful “Don’t Blink”. This song takes me to bands like Third Eye Blind, which is not necessarily a bad thing for me. It’s a new sound for Relient K that fits really well into their progression as a band. When Matt Theissen stated that this new album as a “pop album” I got scared. Would this be “Save Rock and Roll” all over again? Don’t Blink made me hopeful that Relient K would not fall into those same patterns. Unfortunately, it’s the only song on the album that has that sound. The next six songs are a train wreck. If I didn’t know what album I was listening to, I could not tell you that Relient K wrote any of these songs. The vocal processing is so overdone, its hard to tell that Matt Theissen is singing. Boomerang, the second song is somewhat bearable. It’s not good, by any means, but I can listen to it without feeling disappointed. Lost Boy sounds like it was off of a Katy Perry album. Its homogenized, methodical, pop nonsense. If I Could Take You Home and Gloria are both completely forgettable. Can’t Complain has a little bit of cheeky lyricism to remind the listener of their earlier work, but it’s so drowned in their desire to be Jason Mraz that it’s completely lost. And PTL (or Part Time Lover) is just insulting to anyone who has ever listened to Relient K in the past. Everything about this song just oozes with everything wrong with pop music. Shallow lyrics, a complete lack of dynamics, and a level of production that strips away all integrity that might have existed.
Thankfully, for at least two songs, the album rallies. Disaster and When You Were My Baby remind me that I am in fact listening to Relient K. The lyrics are still disappointing, but the instrumentation and arrangements are more akin to what I would expect out of this band. Disaster has an air of the pop orchestration that made Deathbed such a great song. The rally does not last, and Relient K ends the album with the most disappointing ballad the band has ever made and an underwhelming final song that never builds to its fullest potential and leaves you wanting more. Sweetness, the disappointing ballad, is especially saddening for me, because even on their earlier albums, the ballads were always where they stopped being silly and goofy, and had a moment of depth. This song continues the trend of bad, shallow lyrics that seems to plague this entire album. I think more than anything, the lack of lyrical depth is the most disappointing part of this album. Every song seems to be about the same thing, some more over (PTL) some more subdued (Don’t Blink). Even putting the shallow subject matter of sleeping around and failed relationships aside, the lyrics lack subtlety or depth at all.
All in all, this album was extremely disappointing. The three songs I like give me hope that maybe their future releases will have more to love, but as far as this album is concerned, I will not be returning to the majority of it anytime soon.