Relient K has been through a lot as a band. They’ve released numerous full lengths and EPs on indie labels, writing super poppy Christian music with often goofy lyrics. They have songs about Thundercats, High School Tolo dances, and another song simply titled “May the Horse Be With You”. Enough said. But all of a sudden, Relient K has experienced a musical revolution. Their brand new full length, “Mmhmm”, is being released on Capitol Records. A major label release for this goofy band? Is it possible? The answer is yes. Relient K’s latest effort is a blast of pop-punk goodness. Every song has a killer hook, the vocals are smooth and melodic, the production is amazing, and the lyrics are *gasp* actually really good – and at times very mature. It all seems like a bit much for this 3-piece, but it’s time to believe it – Relient K is back with a much more mature formula for success.
That being said, Relient K still writes great pop-punk music. Don’t expect any change in tempo, the band still brings it hard and fast. The opener “The One I’m Waiting For” kicks the album into gear right off the bat. Fast-paced and full of group-vocals and punching guitars, Relient K proves they are different this time around. The vocals are more aggressive, they don’t sound whiney anymore. The album continues on with one great track after another – the album essentially has no weak parts to it. “Be My Escape” is a pop-rock anthem complete with a piano counterpart that fuels the falsetto driven chorus. The verses hold varied tempos and breakdowns so that no song ever really gets old, despite its basic pop-punk formula. The third track, “High of 75” brings the listener back to the classic style of Relient K, lyrically wise “Well we were talking together/I said what’s up with this weather/don’t know whether or not/how sad I just got”. Relient K may still write goofy lyrics – but this time around it seems sincere. The song includes some synth effects, but again – doesn’t sound cheesy. It sounds mature, even when the chorus kicks in, complete with electric drums pounding a dance-like beat, complete with hand claps. You just want to get up and dance – reminds me of The Format. Another later track (“Which to Bury…”) even includes a banjo.
Next on the album is my personal favorite track, “I So Hate Consequences”. Immediately this track sounds different from the others, hard driving drums and dark guitars lead into the spectacular verse, complete with my favorite lyric “So here I sit looking at the traffic light/the red extinguishes the hope that the green ignites/I want to run away, I want to ditch my life/because all of my mistakes keep me awake at night”. So long, Sadie Hawkins dance. This album never fails to impress me lyrically as well as musically. The track is also full of dark, melodic chords while creating a memorable and catchy chorus. It’s also the first track that Relient K introduces a back-up scream or two, mainly during the chorus. Cliché? Hardly. It adds passion and intensity to the song – again, making Relient K seem much more sincere this time around. I can’t say enough – and I’m only through the first 4 tracks.
The remainder of the album is stellar as well. “More than Useless” is the catchiest song you’ll hear all winter, and the dark track “Life after Death and Taxes” is easily the hardest on the album. While the music is dark and hard, the lyrics provide an uplifting spiritual message, talking about eternal life after death. The Christian undertone to the lyrics has in no way disappeared, in fact it is as prevalent as ever. But the message is subtle, and even non-religious listeners will be able to enjoy this awesome record.
I really have no major problems with this record. It’s the best pop-punk album I’ve heard all year. It’s uplifting and happy, but not sappy. The only thing that prevents this album from getting a higher score is the fact that it is still fairly standard pop-punk, though done extremely well. While the sound is much more mature, it is not groundbreaking. I don’t know how much staying power this band has. After a few slower piano tracks, the later tracks on the album begin to run together a bit – until “Life after Death and Taxes”. Mmhmm is even complete with the token acoustic track at the end – albeit a good song.. But for the genre, Relient K does what they do near perfect. Fans of any pop-punk/rock band – The Starting Line, Fall Out Boy, Something Corporate – will eat this album up, though I don’t believe enjoyment is limited to fans of any specific genre. Relient K is back and they are serious this time. Go pick up this album today.