Relient K: Mmhmm
Relient K latest, Mmhmm, has an adult sound that has been lacking in their previous outings. That is not to say that all of the fun-loving elements have been removed, but the overall themes are more involved than the past. Having been a non-fan of the band for so long, I was extremely surprised to find that Mmhmm is one of my favorite albums of the last year. There is an upbeat, piano-and-guitar driven power to this album that recognizes the fallen humanity in all of us, that can only be redeemed by God’s grace and sacrifice. Relient K finally seems prepared to share of their moody trials and tribulations—with the triumph of faith presented to all.
After the cautionary tale of “The One I’m Waiting For,” Mmhmm moves to “Be My Escape,” a prayer that God would rescue the singer from a self-constructed house of trouble to which only God holds the key. Doubt and insecurity have caused the singer to live his life selfishly, and although he’s deserving of death/separation, the “beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” He recognizes that he has fought God’s help for so long, trying on his own, but only God can save him from his own humanity.
“High of 75” and “So Hate Consequences” both further document the need for God’s guidance, even when taking control of your own life seems ‘easier.’ “Consequences” draws in the themes of the Prodigal Son: self-serving choices, utter failure, remorse, and undemanding forgiveness. Having learned from all this, Relient K reaches out with this message to others, in “The Only Thing Worse Than Beating A Dead Horse Is Betting On One,” blending their theology with some politics and social issues along the way (and rocking a bit harder as well.)
Our apathy gets a shot in the gut from “More Than Useless” as the singer suffers from depression, needing the gentle reminder from an outside source (a friend, a loved one, God) that he does serve a purpose. He admits to having wasted opportunities to help others, thinking that they could make it on their own without him. He comes to the conclusion that if he will be like Jesus, he must take those opportunities on himself.
In “Which To Bury; Us Or The Hatchet?,” Relient K explores the aftershocks of an argument and explores the healing process in the follow up, “Let It All Out.” The joy of overcoming obstacles is the focus here, as “the end will justify the pain it took to get us there.” “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” is pretty straightforward but dovetails into “Maintaining Consciousness,” providing insight into the depression that besets even those who have a positive outlook and faith in the providence of God. This depression and the apathy that follows are part of “This Week The Trend,” where the singer proposes that he just wants “to get mugged at knifepoint/to get cut enough to wake me up.” Why is it that we wait for the hard times or turning points to make those life-changing decisions, rather than recognizing the opportunities in front of us? Relient K wants to know, and they take us along as they explore this process.
Mmhmm fittingly closes with “When I Go Down,” a reminder that the problems don’t just go away; nor does the belief in God mean that life is without trouble. Peace of mind does come (temporarily) but we often cause ourselves more stress than might come anyway. Relient K lists things that have been thrown away (friendships, opportunities), but the fact that God’s love forgives even his selfishness. This love never drifts far from him, because Relient K sings “you touch my heavy heart, and when you do you make it light” (one of the most catchy phrases of the year).
Just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, Relient K chronicles a cyclic tale of complacency, failure, pain, remorse, forgiveness, and victory. For any of their listeners, Mmhmm raises some thought-provoking questions about how we deal with our problems and who we hold responsible. Beyond that, the album contains quite a few catchy tunes, hooking you with it’s cheerful rock. I know I’m eagerly awaiting the next album, because this one was Mmhmm, good.