Relient K - K is for Karaoke
Record Label: Mono vs. Stereo
Release Date: June 28, 2011
A covers project is always a tough endeavor. Do you tackle obscure songs and give them life so people frantically search Google to listen to the original? Or do you tackle pop smashes and hope to reinvent them in ways others haven't? The sad reality is a covers project is a no-win situation, so credit the Nashville quintet Relient K for taking a chance and giving it a shot. K is for Karaoke EP is the precursor to a full-length project due out later this fall. Almost two decades into a career that happened by accident, K is for Karaoke finds the band making very few mistakes.
There are of course a host of pop smashes on the EP, namely Gnarls Barley's inimitable "Crazy," Justin Bieber's ubiquitous "Baby," Cyndi Lauper's 80s titan "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and Tears for Fears' ego-driven "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." And then there are those just left of the mainstream, foremost Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl," " Weezer's "Surf Wax America," and They Might Be Giants' gem "Doctor Worm."
With the exception of Barkley's "Crazy," not one of the seven songs on K is for Karaoke stumbles. Their spirited version of Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," is modern and punchy, while Bieber's "Baby," is spirited, far less gimmicky and unabashedly enjoyable. Their version of Petty's 70s valentine does little to deviate from the original and that in and of itself is a good thing. The only problem is vocalist Matthew Thiessen doesn't pull off the laid-back, cooler-than-cool persona that Petty did.
The album's most halcyon moments are a too-good-to-be-true version of "Doctor Worm" and a can't miss version of "Surf Wax America." Though its not exactly kosher to rip on Rivers Cuomo, the fact of the matter is Matthew Thiessen can sing circles around the Harvard slacker any day. Somewhere in between "Doctor Worm," and "Surf Wax America," is a commendable and honorable version of Tears for Fears' 80s anthem "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." While Thiessen is no Roland Orzabal he does sing with a carefree charisma and a winning charm that is not unlike the famous Briton.
In the end, K is for Karaoke does little to reinvent the wheel, and even far less to alienate the music listener. Long-time fans will certainly find this enjoyable, casual fans probably won't find anything to hate, and somewhere, most likely on Twitter, John Flansburg and John Linnell are writing thank you notes to Thiessen, Hoopes and the clan. They Might Be Giants have never sounded better.
Good review. I'll probably check this out. What is it about the Gnarls Barkley song that doesn't hit it for you?
Good eye sniper! Thanks for the copy-edit. Mistake is fixed.
Re; Gnarls. They do a fine job of it, to be honest. I just don't think you should tackle a titanic song like that. No one has a voice like Cee-Lo. So no reason to even attempt to cover it. But they are not the first to do so. Many have. It's just something I don't care for. Make sense?