After establishing their value as a Christian pop punk band with a knack for witty lyrics and upbeat tempos, Relient K changes things up a bit with their sixth album Forget And Not Slow Down. With a more intensive focus on alternative piano rock, Relient K presents a calmer, cooler take on their already catchy music. It represents an artistic progression for the band, who no longer rely on prevalent guitar riffs and contagious drum beats. Instead, lead singer Matthew Thiessen’s composed and soothing vocals lead the way, enhanced only by the relaxing and reflective piano in the background. Although the slower tempo largely prevents Forget And Not Slow Down from leaving a lasting impression or gaining any sustainable sort of momentum, it does provide a unique and fresh dose of Relient K that is both pleasant and profound. And although the Christian themes don’t appear as frequently, the band’s latest album is contemplatively compelling while still being enjoyable, making it another solid Relient K entry at the very least.
Like the agreeable and optimistic opener, “I Don’t Need A Soul” follows up with a lighthearted and happy song that somehow manages to sneak in profound sentiment at the same time. The compositional emphasis on piano is clear right from the start as Thiessen provides a suitably pleasant background to lighter guitar riffs from Matt Hoopes and Jon Schneck. Ethan Luck takes advantage of his chance to pound away on the drums, providing the appropriate counterpart to Thiessen’s calmer piano and and vocals. And despite the seemingly anti-Christian lyrics, Thiessen explores the uplifting idea that heartbreak isn’t where life ends, an idea inspired by his time of reflection after he and his fiancee broke up that is evidenced by each catchy chorus: “I don’t need a soul, no I don’t need a soul to hold / Without you I’m still whole, you and life remain beautiful.”
Although Thiessen explores life after loss for much of the album, “Therapy” is by far the most important to Forget And Not Slow Down, as Thiessen accepts the sorrow and pain of heartbreak while simultaneously vowing to not let it keep him down. The piano is once again dominant, but John Warne’s underlying bass hook provides a nice background for more upbeat drumming and light guitar riffs. This buoyant and encouraging track displays the new piano rock style at its best, making it the strongest track of the album.
However, “Sahara” shows that the band hasn’t completely abandoned their punk roots with a livelier and heavier track that features a guest verse from Aaron Gillespie, who brings some extra fervor to an already fast-paced song. The buzzing central guitar riff steals the spotlight, but the quick tempo adds variety and energy to a mostly mellow album.
Progression in the music industry is a delicate balance of exploring new sounds while still retaining one’s trademark sound. With Forget And Not Slow Down, Relient K has done just that, but in this case, artistic progression doesn’t necessarily result in a better album. Because as enjoyable as the new, soft piano rock sound is, it doesn’t quite measure up to the pure energy and fun of the band’s older pop punk style. With upbeat and catchy albums like Mmhmm and Two Lefts Don’t Make A Right…But Three Do in their arsenal, it’s hard for a more mature and serious effort to replace these entries that hold such a special place in fans’ hearts. Fans of Switchfoot, Jack’s Mannequin, House Of Heroes, Hawk Nelson, Stellar Kart, Sanctus Real and FM Static will enjoy this new dose of Relient K, but don’t expect anything too groundbreaking.
Final Score: 7.8/10
Rank: 4th (six total albums)
- Forget And Not Slow Down
- I Don’t Need A Soul
- Part Of It
- Over It
- If You Believe Me
- This Is The End
- (If You Want It)