Relient K's lead singer Matt Theissen lived in recluse for months writing new material after 2007's critical bomb "Five Score and Seven Years Ago."
The time off has worked wonders for the band, who was mostly known for their quirky pop tunes littered with lame pop culture references. Their softer new release, "Forget and Not Slow Down," is a breakthrough for the band, featuring the catchiest choruses and the most emotionally driven songs of the punk rockers' 10-year career. The album's theme is about letting go of the past. There is no longing for what once was, but a strong desire to press forward toward better things.
The first single and album title, "Forget and Not Slow Down," is the best on the album.
It's clear that Theissen has grown as a songwriter over the years. He writes with a level of intelligence that stands out among his rocker peers. But Theissen has never strayed away from what he's best at: infectious and memorable choruses. The mid-tempo and light rock of the track actually works nicely. You couldn't ask for a better way to open the record.
The next two tracks, "I Don't Need a Soul" and "Candlelight," round out the really strong opening of the album. Both tracks are mellow but still not boring even with multiple listens. Although it's a bit soft, even for them, "I Don't Need a Soul" will definitely satisfy fans of the older Relient K.
"Therapy," with its tinkling percussion and piano melody will surely be a fan favorite. Another song that rivals "Forget and Not Slow Down" in the best song category is "Over It,"which is about how the power of letting go exceeds the need to fix a situation. The song is a perfect example of why it's difficult to place this album in a particular genre. The track is slow and jazzy, an interesting departure for the band.
"Sahara" is the edgiest song on the album, with its melodic vocals and metaphorical lyrics about a lion that lost his throne.
The only curious thing about "Forget and Not Slow Down" is how the intros and outros and reprises are not included in their respected songs, but are featured as their own short tracks. It's not an issue if you listen to the album the whole way through. If your iPod is on shuffle, however, it might be a little confusing and disconcerting. Relient K doesn't try too hard with the thoughtful and honest "Forget and Not Slow Down" which is why the album is such a triumph. Before this, the band had released five albums in seven years and the hastiness showed.
"Five Score and Seven Years Ago" was the epitome of over-reaching, but it did give fans a small glimmer of hope with what was to come. "Forget and Not Slow Down" works because it is so distinctive, part-punk, part-rock, and even part-folk so there is something for everyone.
With this album, the band has proven they can mature without abandoning their core fan-base, and all the while draw in new fans. It may seem impossible, but Relient K, with Theissen's lyrical knack, pulls it off with ease.
Dana Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.