Relient K - Collapsible Lung
Label: RCA Records
Release: July 2, 2013
Roughly nine years ago, Relient K released their hit record Mmhmm, which featured breakthrough hits such as "Be My Escape" and "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been". To many, that album was simply a good christian-rock album by a group of guys from the midwest, but to the fifth grade version of me, Mmhmm was more valuable than the gospel itself. I grew up with Relient K, I hit my first little league home run with Relient K; I joined boy scouts with Relient K. For years, Relient K taught a more naive version of me about love, friendship, happiness, frustration and everything in between. To middle school me, Mmhmm was my old testament and Five Score and Seven Years was my new testament (Alright I'll stop with the Christianity references). Matt Thiessen was an icon to me, and i went to their shows every time they toured near me. As I'm sure you now understand, Relient K's music means an awful lot to me. With this in mind, it is very tough to review an album like Collapsible Lung. Reading the forums and message boards, it is clear to see that many fans of the band are not happy with the style the band has chosen to pursue on this new record. To say that Collapsible Lung is a bad record would not be the truth. To say that the album lacks what many Relient K fans have grown accustomed to in terms of the bands sound is a more accurate way to describe the situation.
Lead vocalist Matt Thiessen has worked with countless pop icons over the past five years such as Katy Perry and Owl City which could explain the bands "poppy" sound that is on display throughout the album. A friend of mine described their new sound by saying that the band had "lost their teenage angst", which is evident in the lack of expert guitar riffs that are usually so prevalent on a Relient K record. In addition, Thiessen has traded his signature pop-punk vocals for a more radio friendly sound which can be heard on tracks such as "Can't Complain" and "Lost Boy". Collapsible Lung reached number one on the Itunes music charts upon its release, which is not too surprising seeing how the band has seemingly transformed from a purely rock outfit to a more top 40 friendly artist. Perhaps the biggest shift made by the band on this record is in their lyrical content. Relient K has always been known for their powerful, religiously backed lyrics that often describe Thiessen's relationship with both those close to him as well as God. Gone is the "Oh God, Oh God, I needed you" of Mmhmm (I So Hate Consequences to be precise), replaced by lines like " I was with woman I didn't know. Footloose!". Wait, did that just happen? The innocence of Relient K seem's all but gone, which is not a terrible thing, it just seems so odd to hear Matt Thiessen talk about bringing random girls home with him and being a "Part Time Lover". While I have described many negative aspects of the record, there are also quite a few bright spots.
On Collapsible Lung, Relient K have perhaps written one of their best songs to date in the opening track, "Don't Blink". The band released the song months prior to the album's release, and immediately enthused fans with the hope of another great Relient K album. "Don't Blink" is an emotionally positive song that describes Thiessen himself overcoming dark periods in life and recognizing the beauty of both love and the world around him. The song is the proverbial Relient K classic and is sure to be blasted out of open car windows all summer long. Another song that stands out to me is the final song on the album, the title track, which sounds much more like some of their older material. Thiessen's lyrics are absolutely on point through out the entire song, and truly shine during lines like 'I stumbled into the great unknown and found/Time won't slow down'. The song starts quite slow, but develops into an upbeat track that will leave many listeners jamming out to the song on repeat. The bookends of the album certainly hold their own as great Relient K songs, but it is a shame that all the rest of the songs seem like a whole different band.
Relient K will always have a special place in my heart. As a die-hard fan of the band, I certainly hope that Collapsible Lung is merely a speed bump in the bands long, illustrious career. I can't possibly expect another Five Score and Seven type album in terms of quality, but I am confident that the guys from Canton, Ohio can muster up a better record than what they have done in 2013. To sum up my thoughts on Collapsible Lung, I will end with a quote from one of my all time favorite Relient K songs, "Which To Bury, Us or the Hatchet", 'You know I'll always love you but right now I just don't like you'.