I have a weird relationship with my favorite band. Usually your favorite band is the one you listen to most, or the one that you know all the lyrics of, or the one that you run out to the store and buy their CDs the day they are released. But that’s not the way I roll. No, Relient K isn’t any of those.
Now I know a lot of you just scoffed at me, but before you yell “MAINSTREAM” and click the back button on your browser, hear me out. I’ve followed Relient K since late 2001- basically, all of my music-listening life. Relient K’s breakout disc The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek was the third or fourth album I had ever received (DC Talk’s Jesus Freak and Philmore’s , were first, and I got The O.C. Supertones Strike Back at the same time as I got RK’s disc).
I listened to the album and I was enthralled- it was happy-go-lucky music that you could dance to and sing to and jump around to, but it also had an extremely serious side and a mellow side- just like me at age 13. I loved everything about the album, and it was a serious turning point in my love of music. Music wasn’t just a thing to do when I was bored- music was about life, and music could in fact BE life. The discovery of this fact is what determined that I was going to be a music critic.
After a short hiatus, Relient K released Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right, but Three Do, which had four different covers- a marketing ploy to drum up support for a half-baked album. There are some great tracks on this album, but a lot of the album shows Matt Thiessen having a transitional album- pretty sure he doesn’t want to do punk all the time, but not sure he can let himself go into straight pop just yet. Relationships take precedence on this album, squelching a lot of the religious insight, philosophical pondering, and tight wordplay of The Anatomy. I had pretty much the same problems over this period in time. This album was in heavy rotation when it came out.
After a filler EP, Relient K returned with Mmhmm– a self-assured title to a self-assured album. Matt Thiessen has conquered some of his relationship demons, and although he’s pushed them into the background of his mind, they still came up occasionally. This album was concerned with killing the deeper demons of past mistakes. Needless to say, it’s a cathartic whirlwind of an album, traveling from the optimism that can come from finally ridding yourself of guilt and doubt to the gut-wrenching ‘I’ve been there’ of “Who I am Hates Who I’ve Been”. The music is getting more and more mature, layering beach-boy-esque oohs and ahs over more piano presence, less punk, and more additional instrumentation (banjo is a big contributor in this category).
At this point in life I was doing pretty much the same thing- killing of the demons of past mistakes. By this point I was convinced that Matt Thiessen was reading my mind.
Their next EP wasn’t a filler EP- many of their EPs are, but this one really takes a spot of its own. “The Apathetic EP” showcases the melancholy side of Relient K- even though the past troubles are over and gone, we still are struggling with today’s troubles. Life doesn’t get easier just cause you closed the former bank accounts. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. The piano and very observant, melancholy lyrics dominate here.
Where do they go next? Where will I go next? Who knows. Hopefully Relient K never breaks up- because if they ever did, there wouldn’t be a soundtrack to my life any more. And that would sadden me.