All of Relient K’s CDs RANKED
(Excluding every time they re-released that Christmas CD) (And EPs)
Now, granted, when I did my initial write up for this CD back in ’07, I gave it a glowing review. But even in those paragraphs, a nagging discomfort with the album as a whole was apparent. Well, “One Forget and Not Slow Down, and Three Years Later,” hindsight proves this one to be a quick detour for an otherwise stellar career. At least even when Matthew Thiessen is writing his least-great CD, he’s clear about his intentions. With lyrics like “Why don’t you come right out and say it?” and “And I know that it’s so cliche…” we’re made aware of the fact that this is Relient K’s most direct, simplistic CD- not that we really needed to be told. But at least he warns us. Half the songs are about this girl he was crazy about. Good for him, bad for us. The whole thing just sounds kind of off. There are some good tracks mixed in with the bunch (“Faking My Own Suicide,” “Give, and “Up and Up,”), but Five Score… just sounds off balance and haphazard. It’s something they would have gotten away with earlier in the decade, but not by 2007. Some of the lyrics are signature Thiessen and stand their ground against some of his best writing, and some of it is literally awful, particularly anything relating to how in love he is with his girl. And then there’s that over indulgent, eleven minute “Deathbed” song that had everyone in a tizzy because FINALLY Relient K got back to their Christian roots! What? What band had these people been listening to for seven years? Did anyone actually listen to this song? It was boring. So was this CD.
5. Relient K (2000)Does anyone remember what it was like when Relient K showed up? It was exciting. There was cool Christian rock music to listen to. It wasn’t too heavy, it wasn’t too weird, it was just fun. It was some kind of pop/punk rock that hadn’t really touched Christian music yet at that point- at least not with the impact that Relient K was threatening to bring. “Hello McFly,” “My Girlfriend,” “Wake Up Call,”… Christian music was finally cool. And the dark, stellar “Softer to Me” was a glimpse of the honest, reflective writing that would become Thiessen’s trademark. Not much substance; mostly fun and goofy, but still one of my favorite CDs to listen to when I’m feeling nostalgic.
4. The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek (2001)The excitement and anticipation surrounding this CD was unmatched at the time. And Relient K delivered. The songs were still goofy and fun, but Thiessen started developing his real songwriting chops on this one. The songs became more spiritual in nature, not just in name. Definitely as the album title describes, this one contains probably the most pop culture references of any Relient K CD to date (Thundercats, Mr. Ed, etc.), but songs like “For the Moment, I Feel Faint,” were honest, sincere looks at faith and God. Thiessen has always had a knack for taking a tough personal issue and resolving it by song’s end.
3. mmhmm (2004)Definitely their darkest album to date, mmhmm is hard to stick in third, but, really there are two others I enjoy more, somehow. So here it finds itself. Thiessen continued to mature as writer and wordsmith on this, their fourth CD. This was also the first CD of theirs not to include some sort of goofy, throw away track (Not even a hidden track!). Relient K meant business, this time. The lyrical maturity is all over it, and the music never sounded better. So many classic tracks came off of this one… I started to list them, but erased it when it just became a track listing. Really, the only drawback is (surprise, surprise) the one track devoted to whoever he was dating at this point (“My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend”) which just sort of sounds bland and out of place on an otherwise dark, earthy release. Oh, and the fact that “More Than Useless” and “Who I am hates Who I’ve Been” sound pretty much identical. But I’m being picky.
2. Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right… But Three Do (2003)This one is the perfect blend of fun and heart. Again, so many classic songs came off Relient K’s third release. It’s hard to sum this one up in words. It just has that X factor to it that makes it stellar. And it just hit at the perfect time. For me, it kind of marks the end of the “glory days” of Tooth & Nail and the like. Maybe it’s just because I was 15 at the time it released, and it was just perfect for that time in my life. But nostalgia aside, this is the release that brought us the popular answer for “best Relient K song ever” in the form of “I Am Understood?” Really, Thiessen was unmatched in his ability to craft a song at this point. Only he could pull off a song with an opening lyric as simple and honest as “Sometimes it’s embarrassing to talk to You” and then bring it home with a chorus so resounding, so heartbreakingly truthful, that seven years later, it still brings a tear to the eye. Aside from the rich spiritual themes found throughout, this was the last time Relient K played the goof-off card, and it was a fitting farewell.
1. Forget and Not Slow Down (2009)It was hard not to rank Two Lefts… number one, and harder still to rank a CD that hasn’t even been out for a year yet higher than all the rest, but that is a testament to the treat that is Forget and Not Slow Down. In a nutshell, the girl Thiessen spend half of his last album ranting and raving about dumped him, and then he wrote his whole next album about it. Popular wisdom would say that the former release would be a lot better than the latter. But a breakup apparently made Thiessen a lot more reflective than did relationship bliss. It’s a little bittersweet that it took a breakup to get him to write his best record of his career, but hey, it’s the truth. Of all the Relient K CDs, this is the most honest, most heartbreaking, most hopeful, most spiritual, most conceptual, and most sincere. Somewhere in every Relient K record, Thiessen likes to state his intentions. This one is simply therapy. Without even trying, Thiessen wears his heart on his sleeve with an album that is written like a fifteen-track prayer. For those experiencing this kind of loss, it is therapy too. And for those in happy relationships, it provides perspective with lyrics like “I don’t need a soul to hold. Without you, I’m still whole. You and life remain beautiful.” The contrast between Five Score… and Forget… is so stark, so drastic, it’s hard to believe they sit next to each other on the discography shelf. It took a poor outing to give us all the details about his self-proclaimed “Best Thing,” but we find out he’s “Over It” on his best one to date.