REVIEW: Relient K – ‘Collapsible Lung’

Relient K 2013

Artist: Relient K
Album: Collapsible Lung
Genre: Pop-Rock, Rock
Label: Mono VS Stereo

Let’s not beat around the bush here: when any band takes more than three years to put out an album with original material, people get skeptical about the quality of it. Introducing several co-writers and two producers to the mix can be seen as a risky move. Last but not least, losing 3/5 of your band members (even if John Warne and Jon Schneck are still “part-time” members) that have been on-board for as much as five years can take its toll on the creative process. With all of that said, this leaves plenty of time and space for change, whether it is for better or worse, and that’s just what Relient K did in the process leading up to Collapsible Lung.

From the moment “Don’t Blink” was first released (which happened to come shortly after the news of Ethan Luck and the Jo(h)ns stepping down initially broke out), the majority of the casual and longtime fans of the band were shocked at the sudden change. Some wondered just how much things would change for the band once a full album came out, and unless they’ve watched YouTube videos or seen Relient K perform many of the songs live over the past few months, the answer to that question can be found by listening to Collapsible Lung.

Musically, the record has its fair share of moments that would make you smile and gently nod your head as a sign of enjoying the familiarity of everything – then seconds later – scratch it due to confusion. A prime example of this would be “PTL,” where everything heard in the opening verse sounds like vintage Relient K…and then it gets to the synth-filled chorus that sounds like it could’ve been pulled straight from a Maroon 5 song. It’s not like they’ve changed much, lyrically, just as much as ever, Matt Thiessen’s work still maintains that certain level of innocence that people have come to know and love from his band. Lines like “I know the pleasure’s got to come with pain, I know that things won’t always go my way, and I know life is going to suck someday, but I can’t complain,” on “Can’t Complain” really reminds me of why so many people love this band.

My main complaint here is that the overall flow of things is a little awkward. With only a couple of tracks holding the album up on figurative stilts in the middle of the album, it’s easy to find yourself skipping between the beginning and end to get to the songs you want to hear, not the ones you have to stomach. This can probably all root down to the the choice of having so many co-writers on board, the focus goes onto the songs as individual entities instead of the entire album as a whole.

The real shining track here is also the source of one of the most dramatic and stylistic (yet fitting) pace changes on Collapsible Lung: “Sweeter,” the penultimate song on the record features a country-esque feel that’s brought out through the minimalistic use of over-driven guitars and pianos that flow eloquently into the closing title track of the album. “Collapsible Lung” starts off as hushed as can be, but once the drums kick in, it evolves into a fun auditory celebration of just what it is to be human.

I know I’ve used words like “change” a lot in this review, but don’t let that lead you into the thought that change is necessarily a bad thing. Things like this happen over the years to any artist. Creativity and versatility are great, but only when they’re done right. Collapsible Lung provides us with some of the most unique and best songs from Relient K, while forcing us to listen through a couple of their most forgettable and mediocre tracks in the process.

Rating: 7.5/10
Reviewed by: Adrian Garza (Follow on Twitter)

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