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Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago Review

by Andrew Phelan

It's clear that Relient K can craft rich melodies dripping with syrupy pop-punk goodness, in addition to singing their way into our hearts with crystal-clear harmonies. Their music can appeal to church-going youth group kids as well as kids who are throwing down on the latest Fall Out Boy album. They're becoming more and more successful, while retaining that same old Relient K sense of humor. They're cute, talented, polished and ready for the magazine cover. They're rising stars in the music industry and they have, what seems like, endless potential. Then why, my friends, is Five Score and Seven Years Ago so boring?

Five Score and Seven Years Ago, Relient K's newest release since 2004's chart-topping album Mmhmm, will undoubtedly launch Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, Dave Douglas, John Warne, and Jon Schneck into our radios and late night TV programming. Each song is buffed to a glorious sheen and has the finest recording quality of their seven year career thanks to producers Mark Lee Townsend and Howard Benson. From the opening Brian Wilson-inspired mouth-symphony "Plead the Fifth" to their closing piano-fronted 11 minute epic "Deathbed," Relient K rarely stray from the familiar verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus. Throw in yawn-inducing cliché 4 chord choruses and you're ready for a nap.

I'm not opposed to happy songs. I think there are way too many "woe is me" artists out their inflating their bank accounts thanks to pre-teen angst. However, this album is chock full of one light-hearted tune after another. And by light-hearted, I mean corny. "Must Have Done Something Right" serves its purpose as a toe-tapping pop song. But my inquisitive side wonders if the similarities in topic and lyrics between the Sound of Music song "Something Good" and this Relient K song are noteworthy. Both seem to be about the perfect person who apparently comes out of nowhere which prompts the line "I must have done something good."

Conspiracy theories aside, I guess I'm just a little disappointed that this album has all the aggression and punk edge of a friendly pillow fight. "The Best Thing," "Give Until There's Nothing Left," and "I'm Taking You With Me" are shoe-ins for a romantic-comedy soundtrack. And the latter of the three, I might add, is by far the most irritating song on the album. Lines like "If home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are/But it's getting oh so hard to spend these days without my heart" are just unacceptable. I mean it, and no I won't apologize.

Especially on this album, I found it difficult to differentiate between which songs were about girls, and which songs were about God. From "I need you like you would not believe" in "I Need You" to "How did I survive in this world before you" in "The Best Thing," it seems like Relient K have one foot in the mainstream and one foot in the church, and they're not sure which way to go. And that sure does make for a confusing listen.

Although it's true that Relient K has never been known for their crowd-destroying mosh pits, 2004's Mmhmm was, how should I say, not as fluffy. "Plead the Fifth," "Come Right Out and Say It," and "I Need You" are the three songs on this album that I'd say I enjoy. And this is coming from a long time Relient K fan. I'm not a new listener. I've been there from the start. And I meant all those things I said at the beginning of this review too. I believe they have potential and I know that they have talent. I just wished they would write more songs like "Plead the Fifth" and fewer songs I'd be embarrassed to be caught listening to. Come on Thiessen! We can all tell you're a Brian Wilson/Beach Boys fan. You even did a Beach Boys cover for your solo project Matt Thiessen and the Earthquakes. Harness that love and write an album that blow our minds, even if it takes another seven years to write it.

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