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.


Mmhmm
(2004) Music Review

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MUSIC REVIEWS INDEX

This page was created on June 7, 2005
This page was last updated on June 8, 2005

DETAILS -Window Media

1. The One I'm Waiting For
2. One I'm Waiting For
3. Be My Escape
4. I So Hate Consequences
5. The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse Is Betting On One
6. My Girl's Ex Boyfriend
7. More Than Useless
8. Which to Bury; Us Or The Hatchet
9. Let it all Out
10. Who I Am Hates Who I've Been
11. Maintain Consciousness
12. This Week the Trend
13. Life After Death and Taxes (Failure II)
14. When I Go Down
15. When I Go Down

CD INFO
CD info
Title: Mmhmm
Artist
: Relient K
Garage-rock hero Jack White producing honky-tonk legend Loretta Lynn? And Lynn comparing him to renowned Nashville producer Owen Bradley? Yes, we all know the world is rapidly shrinking, bMarc Greilsamer

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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.

01.jpg (71 K)“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.)

03.jpg (67 K)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.

12.jpg (68 K)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.

09.jpg (60 K)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.

BIO

16.jpg (55 K)The name Relient K has always been synonymous with some of the most contagious power pop/punk rock, tongue in cheek songwriting and feel good fun anyone could ever ask for. But since the band’s infancy, there has also been an upward evolution that includes tighter musicianship, increased songwriting smarts and a high-octane stage show regarded by fans at sold out shows from coast to coast. Just trace the progression from the band’s tracksuit wearing days on 2000’s self-titled release to the plethora of puns on their breakthrough sophomore release The Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek to the Billboard Top 200 album charting Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…But Three Do (#38 street week debut) and it’s evident that Relient K thrive on raising the bar with each release.

Their latest offering MMHMM is no exception demonstrating yet another building block upon the group’s reliable recipe. “There’s been a natural progression from the first onto the second, third and now the fourth record,” notes drummer Dave Douglas. “The change has come incrementally with each disc. I don’t feel like we’re taking a drastic number of turns, but the direction keeps shifting for the better.”

The reunion with longtime producer Mark Townsend comes at a time when lines are being blurred between the post hardcore, post punk and peak emo movements, making Relient K’s original output level especially attention grabbing. Such sounds are amplified all the more courtesy of mixers Tom Lord-Alge (U2, The Rolling Stones, Oasis) on “The One I’m Waiting For,” “High of 75,” and “My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend,” and J.R. McNeely (UnderOath, Project 86, Demon Hunter ) on the rest of the tracks. “I feel like with this record when we’re rocking heavy, we’re rocking heavier than we ever have and when we’re letting up with low key moments, it’s more mellow then we’ve done in the past. We’re hitting our peaks correctly and all the angles are really paying off,” says Thiessen.

As for the messages behind such sparse pre-production sessions, Thiessen turned to the basic root of his personality, a combination of satire and seriousness that runs the gamut between relationships, geography, faith and the weather. “It’s my personality to be cheesy and tell dumb jokes,” he admits. “For the last four of five years, I’ve taken all the puns I think of on a daily basis and plant them in a song. Besides that tone, this record also has personal ties. There’s a lot about making mistakes, failing, how amazing grace is and picking yourself back up.”

“Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” launches with a reflective piano arrangement that builds up with intensity to address life’s moments when everything seems to be failing, while reminding all that God provides second chances. The potent “This Week, The Trend” speaks of breaking through daily routine and living each day to its adventurous fullest, the spunky “Maintain Consciousness” is a colorful commentary on society’s need to be constantly stimulated by technology and the blasting “Apathetic” calls all to tone down their obsession over possessions.

There are also plenty of power chords that fall on the lighter side of the topical fence, from the brooding vibe of “Life After Death and Taxes” to the hysterically framed “My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend” to the thermometer based teasing of the band’s home state (Ohio) on “High of 75.” “I So Hate Consequences” seems to build a bridge between the two writing styles, comically addressing all the times we make mistakes and try to run from them, but also coming to the realization that repentance and forgiveness are necessary components in the healing process.

“We’re not trying to hide anything with the songs on this record, just to get what we feel out there,” Thiessen summarizes. “We’ve also found it to be the hardest thing in the world to say ‘Jesus’ in a song and not be cheesy, so we definitely have our own way of singing about spirituality. But in the end that’s who we are and what we believe in. We hope between that and the music, it connects with someone out there.”

--From Official site

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