Relient K: Collapsible Lung Album Review

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01. Don’t Blink
02. Boomerang
03. Lost Boy
04. If I Could Take You Home
05. Can’t Complain
06. Gloria
07. PTL
08. Disaster
09. When You Were My Baby
10. Sweeter
11. Collapsible Lung
12. That’s My Jam (ft. Owl City)
I like to think of myself as a long time Relient K fan considering I’ve been around long enough to watch them place 9th with “Be My Escape” on TRL (when MTV still had something to do with music), having endured through not one but two Christmas albums, and even had the mental capacity to listen to their 2011 covers album, Is For Karaoke, that had a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”—clearly a red flag for their future musical endeavors. With all that I feel a little justified in saying that Relient K’s first proper LP since 2009’s fantastic Forget And Not Slow Down feels like a slap in the face for long time listeners of Relient K. We come face to face with Collapsible Lung, undoubtedly a pop album which would have been okay as it’s a natural progression in where their sound was going but it’s so laced in lyrics that come off as mindless dribble that Relient K’s attempt at avoiding a formulaic musical evolution completely drops the ball and becomes what they tried not to be: formulaic.

“Between the miles of open road, I lost sight of what might matter the most,
I stumbled into the great unknown and found, that time can’t slow down”

I commend Relient K, I really do. Wanting to go into a different musical direction is always a good thing. Consciously making the effort to not repeat albums of the past shows that they didn’t want to simply make a twin to Mmhmm, and that’s great. But Collapsible Lung simply lacks the Relient K touch making it feel like a product of the machine. Front man Matthew Thiessen has recently been co-writing songs for some big names like Owl City and at some point Kelly Clarkson & Katy Perry. However those co-writing credits came as a result of being an active part in the writing process. It seems as if on Collapsible Lung that Thiessen did quite the opposite, opting to be a fly on the wall as numerous co-writes pen songs worthy of a Pulitzer prize with lyrics like “She’s sweeter than sugar, till the sun goes down, don’t allow her to sour, just spit her out, believe me she’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth, can’t drink enough to wash her down”. Man, what a metaphor.

“Nothing can touch you if you don’t look back” More power to you if you have the ability to make a pop album. It’s hard to do and I respect that. I appreciate pop music and love it, despite it’s often cookie cutter songs and repetition of the same four chords all across the Top 40 spectrum. However it’s the fact that Collapsible Lung has such trivial lyricism coming from a band who wrote their own Christmas songs—and damn good ones at that—that frustrates me the most. Laughable lyrics like “your hoodie’s in my car” and “serious like a heart attack” make me feel like I’m listening to High School Musical.

Thiessen sings “If you can’t say nothing good, don’t say nothing” on “Can’t Complain” and perhaps I should have stopped writing 468 words ago but I do have some positive vibes to throw out. Despite a cadence that reminds me of “Anyone Else But You” from Juno, “Can’t Complain” is one of my favorite tracks from Collapsible Lung. This is a pop album that I obviously have issues with, partly of my own doing seeing as I expected something resembling Relient K’s classic alternative rock sound however, it is undoubtedly a great pop album. Frivolous lyrics aside, in its best moments Collapsible Lung holds onto the essence of Relient K while embracing the pop genre mold with catchy pop melodies and albeit, smile inducing songs.

“PTL” is the perfect embodiment of a pop song. Its synthesizers and Thiessen’s falsetto equipped with (I guess) relatable lyrics—”I never thought it’d hurt so bad to see you with another, guess I’m a fool that you think I am”—make it one of Collapsible Lung‘s shining moments. “Don’t Blink” sounds the most like Relient K of albums past with its driving guitar lines and its commanding chorus while refreshingly embracing their new sound. Ending on its title track—we’re going to ignore Owl City—the song begins with a whisper but ends powerfully. Full of tension and release, there’s a glimmer of hope with its thoughtful lyrics and thumping drums that will surely be a fan favorite.

My first listen of Collapsible Lung had me thinking “Relient K just “The Crayons Can Melt on Us for All I Care”-ed me for 39 minutes” but if you give it some time and look at it with a fresh slate, Collapsible Lung will be something you love in no time.

Collapsible Lung comes out on July 2, 2013 via Relient K’s own label Mono Vs. Stereo and I can’t wait to buy my own copy.

Relient K is Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, Jon Schneck, John Warne.

Tour Dates:
07/02/2013 – Nashville, TN @ Rocketown *
07/03/2013 – Indianapolis, IN @ Warped Tour
07/05/2013 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall *
07/06/2013 – Memphis, TN @ New Daisy Theatre *
07/07/2013 – Chattanooga, TN @ Track 29 *
07/08/2013 – Jacksonville, FL @ Free Bird Live *
07/09/2013 – North Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues *
07/11/2013 – Asbury Park, NJ @ The Stone Pony *
07/12/2013 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance *
07/13/2013 – Pawtucket, RI @ The Met *
07/14/2013 – New Haven, CT @ Toad’s Place *
07/14/2013 – Hartford, CT @ Warped Tour
07/15/2013 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of the Living Arts *
07/17/2013 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Intersection *
07/18/2013 – St. Louis, MO @ Warped Tour
07/20/2013 – Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theatre *
07/22/2013 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada *
07/23/2013 – Omaha, NE @ Slowdown *
07/24/2013 – St. Louis, MO @ Warped Tour

* with The Almost


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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (Basically, she's a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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  • Jack

    This is false information. Matt Thiessen dated Katy Perry back in 2005, before she got all famous. They co-wrote some songs and one of them filtered down to Kelly Clarkson to use in 2009. So it’s not like he’s been working with them recently. It’s 8 year old news and not indicative of recent writing or collabs.

    • If you were to read that paragraph again, I stated that he recently worked with Owl City and referenced a link to an article about that. I don’t care who he’s dated or at what point his exes became famous. But thank you for that tidbit of information, that was very interesting to learn that Katy Perry wasn’t famous in 2005.

      I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing for him to work with other people, even if they’re “mainstream” acts or not. I’m saying that I miss the strong and poignant lyricism that was present on past RK albums.

  • Brendan

    Pretty good review. The lyricism isn’t that groundbreaking for most of the album, but it is something – it’s relatable. So I would give Thessien and the co-writers props for that. I wasn’t expecting deep soul searching lyrics from a pop album like this, anyways. Forget and Not Slow Down is my favorite album that has come out in my lifetime, and compared to that masterpiece the wordplay seems childish. But, hey, its pop, so I don’t think it really detracts from the album. I think you pegged the nail on the head when you said this one is a grower. One of the few thing on this record that does irk me, though, is how synthetic a lot of the album feels. One of the great things about FANSD was how organic it was – barely any midi or synthesizers at all. I do commend the band for doing what they want, when they want, though. I just hope their next proper LP doesn’t take almost 4 years to come out!

    • I agree, it does feel very synthetic which I think “If I Could Take You Home” epitomizes on Collapsible Lung. But it’s something you get used to. FANSD did have a very organic feel and I miss that but I think it’s something Relient K will go back to on future albums, which hopefully they release faster!