Released Jul. 7th on Mono vs. Stereo Records
I don’t know quite what to make of this new Relient K disc. The group has always been sort of a pop-punk/emo-pop act, honing that vibe to better and better effect over the last 10 years, but with Collapsible Lung they’ve made a totally disposable pop album. For whatever reason, frontman Matt Thiessen decided to bring in a bunch of big-name pop songwriters to work on this one, rather than rely on his own songwriting skills (which are just fine, by the way). Here are some of the names on Collapsible Lung and some of the artists they’ve written and produced hits for:
- Evan Bogart: Adam Lambert, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Sean Kingston, Pussycat Dolls
- Ari Levine: Cee-Lo Green, Travie McCoy, Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg
- Greg Wattenberg: Train, O.A.R., Daughtry, Goo Goo Dolls, Five for Fighting
- Fernando Garibay: Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga
- Brian Lee: Lady Gaga, Owl City
- Emily Wright: Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Miranda Cosgrove, Owl City
- Tim Pagnotta: Sugarcult
- Caleb Owens: We Are the Becoming
Seriously, what the hell are all these people doing on a Relient K record? Unsurprisingly, all the songs involving the pop hitmakers sound like…disposable plastic pop garbage. Take “Boomerang”, an overproduced nightmare on which Thiessen, a 33 year-old career rock musician who’s written 6 albums and as many EPs, suddenly decides to imitate Justin Bieber: “You’re at my favorite bar / Your hoodie’s in my car / The smell of your Chanel 5 won’t die hard … Our love is like a rubber band / Snap back, snap back, here we go again”. Those are the actual lyrics. Much of the album continues in this fashion, with “Lost Boy”, “If I Could Take You Home”, “Can’t Complain”, “Gloria”, and “PTL” (Part Time Lover) all sure to have longtime fans clicking “uncheck selection” in their iTunes libraries.
It’s not all bad, though. When Thiessen and guitarist Matt Hoopes handle the songwriting themselves, as they have on past records, the band’s knack for emotionally resonant pop rock shines through. “Don’t Blink” is an uptempo number with a singalong chorus that’s in keeping with their past work. “When You Were My Baby” is a sugary-sweet love song with shimmering guitars, and the soft ballad “Sweeter” provides a simple, tender transition before the closing title track, which builds from acoustic plucking to a midtempo tune with wistful lyrics about being on the road. These songs are all decent, but ultimately not as good as anything on 2009’s Forget and Not Slow Down, and certainly not enough to overcome the generic dance-pop pablum that makes up the bulk of the album.
Relient K can do, and have done, much better than this. Let’s hope Collapsible Lung is a dalliance and that Thiessen has gotten this particular itch out of his system.