Ranking Relient K’s Discography
March 17, 2011Posted by on
Ranking my favorite band’s work is probably the easiest thing in the world to do, but at the same time saying it out loud or in print isn’t nearly so easy because while I do have very strong opinions about Relient K’s work, saying anything bad about them in order to elevate the other stuff makes me feel about as comfortable as when I say that reading genealogies in the Bible are boring to read. I mean, that is still the Word of God, but maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan they’re hard to get through. I feel bad about it, I do, but getting through the early parts of 2 Chronicles is a challenge. In a similar way, Relient K’s music gets to me like no other (okay, maybe Bleach, but they’re semi-retired and I’m still coping with that six years later) and as much as I love them and the lyricism that makes me want to ask vocalist Matthew Thiessen to get of my head because stealing my feelings and thoughts is against the rules, they still have their faults too. There’s no such thing as a perfect band, no matter what your kid sister tells you. So here goes, from worst to first, Relient K’s full length discography in review.
#6 Relient K (Self-Titled)
I will give you some leeway if you disagree slightly with me over the next four picks, but this one and the number one pick are so obvious for any fan of the band that it would be a failure to excommunicate if we allowed them to not realize the truth of the situation. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since super star Tobymac signed Relient K to Gotee Records and released this early, early, early first impression to the public and it actually worked! I listen to a lot of music and with that I hear a lot of Relient K wannabes through the years and they generally sound better than this first album (and much, much, much worse than the stuff at the end of this list). Still, with the debut label release came what would be the trademark sound that the band kept fairly consistent for the first three albums, before slowly straying from the pop-punk sound over the past seven years or so. Relient K’s self-titled album consisted of more pop culture references than Glee has cover songs and bad writing. From Back to the Future in “Hello McFly” to Marilyn Manson in “My Girlfriend” (best of this bunch) to a rendition of the “Charles in Charge” theme song to “Nancy Drew”. Some of these are truly cringe worthy and are only redeemed by two things: one is that they came out with later releases that improved upon the sound and tightened things up like a NASCAR pit crew…and the other is that they showed they had another side to them in “Softer To Me”. This was a fun album, but it isn’t a great album and that is a hard thing for a huge fan to say, but they can’t all be rookies of the year.
#5 Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right…But Three Do
I struggled with this decision. I flip flop on this one and the next one more than a fish out of water and if you ask me again tomorrow I might forget and go with the other one because they have basically the same sound and approach that build off of the self-titled without much change except for the quality. The songwriting was still about the same, just pulled together more with a better quality production (especially when you go with the gold edition that came out later). Two Lefts really does have it all as far as what we would come to see from the band for years to come, from the silly songs like “Chapstique, Chapped Lips, And Things Like Chemistry”, “Mood Rings” and “In Love With The 80’s (Pink Tux To The Prom)” to the more serious “I Am Understood” and emotional “Getting Into You” and capped off with one of those epic closers in “Jefferson Aero Plane”. I almost ranked this higher simply for that last one. I love it and it showed the potential for what they would finish things off with in the future.
#4 The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek
There were just too many good songs on here for it to not play leap frog and put it over Two Lefts, even though the two albums might as well have been a Part A and Part B. Even though this early album has a few dumb tracks like “Maybe It’s Maybelline” and “I’m Lion-O”, there are still a plethora of great tracks that they could build upon. Sure, they’re probably best known for “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, a song that they probably wish they escape from by now (even though it’s fun and catchy and deserved to blow up), but there’s other stuff on here that really show their talent to write pop songs that cut to the heart, such as “Those Words Are Not Enough”, “My Way or the Highway”, “Failure to Excommunicate” and “Less Is More”.
#3 Five Score and Seven Years Ago
I don’t think you’ll find a more divided faction of people who either love or hate this album, depending on their levels of music snobbery and overall happiness. Five Score is by far the peppiest display of the band’s talent with pop songs galore that showed just how happy they were at the time, with happy sappy love fest songs like “The Best Thing” and “Must Have Done Something Right”…and…and…I’m thinking…wait…for…it…nope that’s it. Two super happy go lucky songs on the whole album and people freak out and call it a wash because this is too happy for them. Never mind that most of the album is typical of Thiessen writing about his internal struggles and external turmoil like “Forgiven”, “Devastation and Reform” and “Come Right Out And Say It”. No, no, no, we have to focus on two songs that don’t act like it’s the end of the world. Hold on, wait up, I have to catch my breath, my asthma is having a catalytic reaction with my sarcasm levels and I’m going to end up hurting someone like a blue turtle bomb. Now I forgot where I was going with this. Forget it. “Deathbed” brings us to check mate. Not only did that song bring to an end of anyone who thought that the band didn’t have a high enough JPM ratio, but it also displayed the finest display of a closing song and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with musical accompaniment that most of us have ever heard.
#2 Forget and Not Slow Down
I heard this two months before most of you did and I’m not ashamed to admit that the first time I heard it I nearly cried. I couldn’t wait until the whole world was able to hear what has been dubbed as the quintessential break-up album. With a somewhat public break up after a somewhat public engagement, Matthew Thiessen hid out in a cabin for a couple months in Tennessee and busted out some finely crafted pop music with a hint of that Nashville sound that they hinted with on the Nashville Tennis EP the year before. The key song in the whole matter has to be “Therapy”, the first song written for the album, which contained the lyrics “Loneliness and solitude are two things not to get confused ’cause I spend my solitude with you.” For anyone ever going through a time where they feel like they’re doing it all by themselves that song and this album can be quite therapeutic as they can experience some empathy and an album that directs us all back to realizing that God is with us even in those lonely times when everything seems upside down.
If you’ve followed me on twitter, you probably already knew where this was headed. You already know that I’m willing to put my battle-bot in the cage against your battle-bot and have them fight to the metallic death over this. I already admitted that Forget and Not Slow Down brought me to tears the first time I heard it. What you didn’t know is that MMHMM still makes me emotional every time I really listen to it. If you give me the right mood and I’m singing along I feel like a method actor where everything that Thiessen was talking about actually happened to me. Sure, I may not have written a song about a relationship with Katy Perry like “The One I’m Waiting For” and I’m not the one who had their face on MTV while singing the hit “Be My Escape” and I can neither confirm nor deny that I moved to Kauai because almost every day has a “High of 75”, but I do know that “I So Hate Consequences” brings me closer to God EVERY TIME I HEAR IT and is the sister song to “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” and that both rip my gut into eighteen smaller guts, which isn’t so bad since I lost some weight. There is simply not a song on here that doesn’t work and although I agree with the idea that there is no such thing as a perfect album (unless we could get a recording of the angels and saints singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”), this gets pretty close for me and if you disagree then you can find me in the garage working on my battle-bot.
Second Opinion by Anthony Peronto
#6- Self Titled: When I look back on their first album, it’s surprising how muchthe band has grown in 11 years. That’s the reason this album is considered theirweakest effort musically and lyrically because “Relient K” isn’t bad but there’sa hint of the greatness and humor that you can sense they can perfect, whichthey thankfully did later on down the road. This album is filled with pop culturereferences o’plenty, from Back to the Future, Marilyn Manson, Charles in Charge,Matchbox 20, 17 Magazine, Nancy Drew, and even the car the band was namedafter. This album only appealed to me so much because of the myriad of popculture, pretty good pop punk, and the light-heartedness of a majority of the trackscoinciding with my age at the time. I mean, where else can you hear Relient K’s onlyinstrumental, screaming on “Softer To Me,” and lyrics like, “All you can hear, waskachunk kachunk kachunk!”
#5- Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right…But Three Do:
There’s plenty of examples of why “Two Lefts” should be higher on the list, butit’s not quite as mature as “MmHmm” is and the lighter pop punk sound prevalenton “Anatomy of Tongue and Cheek” is lacking. And if it counts for something,maybe not being in love with the 80’s or being a college kid at the time of thealbum affects my love for this album as a whole. Regardless, “Getting Into You” isacoustic gold and anyone who has heard of “Gibberish” secretly likes it. Admit it,you do. One things for sure, “Two Lefts” should’ve won the Grammy instead of AudioAdrenaline’s ‘Worldwide.” I wonder if they lost because the screaming on “I AmUnderstood?” was a bit edgy for the voters. Who knows; maybe it was the nonsenserapping halfway on the final track that did it in.
#4- The Anatomy Of Tongue And Cheek:
If you’re a fan of pop-punk, this is the best Relient K has put out to satisfy yourneeds. It’s an improvement on their first record in all areas, with several slowermoments keeps things balanced. Similarly to their self-titled album, there arepop culture nods ranging from Mabeline, The Beach Boys, Star Wars, Breakfastat Tiffany’s, and Thundercats. The horse-themed Star Wars reference on “MayThe Horse Be With You” is proof enough that this beats “Two Lefts.” Maybe that’sa stretch, but my calculations clearly show that I’ve chosen this earlier albumover “Two Lefts” 3 out of 5 times, no lie. However all hope of maturity in the bandat this time in their career is not lost, as “Failure To Excommunicate” shows a soundunlike the previous 15 songs that could fit perfectly on their following albums.
#3-Forget And Not Slow Down:
This could’ve been at the bottom of the list. While I love their earlier days itsurprisingly isn’t #6 for a couple of reasons. “Forget And Not Slow Down” has acompletely matured sound resembling “MmHmm” minus the humor (for reasonsalready widely known). The heart-breaking but hope-filled lyrics are a bit hard toassociate with nowadays for me since I’m happily married, but the overall messageisn’t bitter or angry to a certain extreme like certain songs of the emo variety (ex.Emery). To give this album some credit, the lovely “Savannah” and the dream-song-come-true of “Sahara” with its guest vocalists makes this album higher up in theranks than it should be.
#2- Five Score And Seven Years Ago:
I know I’m going to get flack for this being so high in the list, but hear me out. As alate-bloomer to Relient K’s older material, this album was highly anticipated andI was going out with my girlfriend (now wife) 6 months prior to its release. Sonaturally I accepted Matt Thiessen’s swooning (while simplistic) love songs to histhen-fiancee. Aside from the love songs, the other songs resemble the last remnantsof “MmHmm” before “Forget..” said goodbye to most their pop-punk edge. Extrapoints for the epic “Deathbed” and for the boys finally affirming their influence ofThe Beach Boys with “Sloop John B.”
Say what you will about “Forget and Not Slow Down,” but the quintessential RelientK album in terms of maturity, lyrics, and music is “MmHmm.” Yes they did get alot of exposure from their 2 singles “Be My Escape” and “Who I Am Hates WhoI’ve Been” but every song on the album has stuck with me since. No pop culturereferences are heard on this release, but there’s traces of their past heard on theirmore lighthearted songs. While the fact that this album helped me through sometough times does influence my decision for the top spot, “MmHmm” is pitch perfectin every way.