Since their popular self-titled debut in 2000, Canton Ohio's own Relient K have taken Christian music by storm and have even grabbed the attention of the mainstream market with music appearing on MTV's "Tough Enough," the latest Superman outting "Smallville," and even Nintendo Game Cube's "Big Air Freestyle" and E! Entertainment. So why is this punk-influenced-rock quartet getting all this attention? Well, have you heard them?
One thing that defines Relient K is lead vocalist and primary songwriter Matt Thiessen's smart, fun, and often blatantly honest lyrics. The versatility of Relient's songwriting allows them to write hilarious tongue-in-cheek fun tunes like "Mood Rings" while penning more serious worshipful ones like "Getting Into You" and the renowned "For the Moment I Feel Faint." As the boys grow older and more experienced in writing and performing, it's becoming especially noticeable in their recordings. While The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek was a large leap above their debut in growth, 2003's Two Lefts Don't Make A Right... But Three Do is another step in the right direction for the band and is liable to only garner them even more mainstream attention.
Two Lefts... opens with the catchy "Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry," one of the many relationship-focused songs on the album. This is followed by the aptly musically schizophrenic "Mood Rings," a humorous solution to finding out the current status of an overly sensitive female. Thiessen smartly proposes, "Let's get emotional girls to all wear mood rings / So we'll be tipped off to when they're ticked off / Cause we'll know just what they're thinking / She's so pretty but she doesn't always act that way / Her mood's out swinging on the swing set almost everyday / She said to me that she's so happy it's depressing / And all I said was someone get that girl a mood ring..." The track shifts from melodic pop/rock to more punk-flavored before ending as an almost-ballad, creating a lovely series of stylistic mood changes that fit the song's subject matter beautifully. "Falling Out" is a melodic rock tune, classic for Relient, recognizing the grace of God in times of failure. "Forward Motion" is a catchy pop/punk tongue-in-cheek look at moving forward and moving on in life. "In Love with The 80's" is another highlight, utilizing a retro electronic piano rhythm and simple beat to create a throwback backdrop for clever lyrics paying homage to the era the band grew up in. "College Kids" is a more aggressive pop/punk anthem speaking out against the pressures of needing to further our education following high school, "Oh no, not for me / Call it torture, call it university / No! Arts and crafts is all I need / I'll take calligraphy and then I'll make a fake degree." "Trademark" opens with a hooky and heavy guitar riff before giving away to an accessible punk sound. Lyrically, Thiessen writes about our struggles with inconsistencies and turning our back on God only to eventually realize our fault and come back in the end. "Hoopes I Did It Again," an obvious play on the title of the popular Spears' candy pop tune, is thankfully nothing like one might expect from its title. In fact, utilizing guitarist Matt Hoopes' name, Thiessen takes a sarcastic look at their hometown of Canton, going as far as describing it as "90210 without the Beverly Hills." "Over Thinking" discusses the frustrations of relationships gone sour while "I Am Understood?" expresses Thiessen's amazement of God's mercy in our times of failure. "Getting Into You" is a worshipful ballad expressing surrender, "I'm getting into You / because You got to me / In a way words can't describe / I'm getting in You / because I've got to be / You're essential to survive / I'm going to love You with my life..."
"Gibberish" uses just that for some fun and upbeat nonsense while utilizing a more matured rock sound in "From End to End" to express their frustrations with someone who won't accept the message of Christ. The album ends with "Jefferson Aero Plane," a track that originally appeared in demo form as a b-side on their 2001 Creepy EP but is given a re-envisioning that breaks up the melodic and melancholic gold the original possessed. While the 2003 version of the song is a decent new take on its original, I can't help but miss the original's unique approach. At the close of the song, a couple minutes of silence give way to a wacky hidden track that I'll leave as a surprise to behold.
Two Lefts Don't Make A Right... But Three Do is a step in the right direction for the RK boys and a worthy third chapter in their musical anthology. Not a fan of their first album? In the middle of the road about their second? Two Lefts... is different and good enough to be worth giving the band another chance. The growth is obvious from every side, so if the first two weren't right for you... maybe the the third is?- Review date: 3/15/03, written by John DiBiase
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