Relient K’s history dates back to their 1998 demo, All Work and No Play, which resulted in their signing to Gotee Records. After three albums on Gotee, the band made a jump to the heavy-hitting Capitol Records to release Mmhmm in 2004. Now featuring two new members (guitarist Jon Schneck and bassist John Warne), the band seems ready to take on anything. After selling roughly 800,000 units of Mmhmm, Relient K returns to center stage with their dominant major-label follow-up titled Five Score and Seven Years Ago.
Relient K went with a different face behind the boards for this record, alternative rock mega-producer Howard Benson. As with most Benson-produced albums, Five Score and Seven Years Ago hits hard and fast in all the right places, with quality tone. “I Need You” is one of the speediest numbers we have heard from the band. Matt Thiessen delivers his message with impassioned urgency as Dave Douglas prominently backs him up. One noticeably different factor on this record is Douglas’ contribution; drum parts are considerably fuller than on previous records, giving the band more of an “epic” musically.
As has always been the case, Five Score and Seven Years is saturated with syrupy choruses. Some of the lyrics are corny, but the Relient K trumps the cheese with heartfelt honesty. For example, on “Must Have Done Something Right,” the album’s lead single, Thiessen opens with “We should get jerseys ’cause we make a good team/but yours would look better than mine ’cause you’re out of my league.” Cheesimus maximus, but this is anthemic, good-natured pop music for the good-natured people of the world. “Faking My Own Suicide” comes off as serious thematically, but its tongue-in-cheek approach dances somewhere between humor and sadness; stylistically, it’s reminiscent of some of the more methodical songs on Mmhmm.
Setting aside the amusing twelve seconds of “Crayons Can Melt On Us For All I Care,” the next track is a stellar effort. “Bite My Tongue” is a single in the making, with enough musical manic-depression for an entire mental ward. It is catchy, instrumentally entertaining, and lyrically solid. The (pardon the wordplay) uplifting “Up and Up” deals with self-betterment before leading into the 11-minute marathon, “Deathbed.” The piano-heavy track tells the chilling narrative of an elderly patient dying from lung cancer. There’s no hidden track here, it happens to be an epic tale that tugs at your heartstrings like never before, replete with enough strings to fill an entire orchestra pit.
No one who has been anticipating this album will be disappointed. The change of producer has not dumbed down the music at all; this is the Relient K that you all know and love, just bigger and louder than ever before. It expands on the happier (yet musically grittier) side of Mmhmm without losing any of the band’s trademark fun. Relient K have always been “that guy” who melts the girl’s by saying all the romantic things she wants to hear, and they have comfortably settled into their success. Don’t get your panties in a bunch over a score that might be “too low.” Relient K consistently outdo themselves, and Five Score and Seven Years Ago sets the bar higher yet. I adore this album for what it is, and I think you will too. Break out a smile, hug your (cute next-door) neighbor, and feel good about life for the next 51 minutes.