Album Review: Relient K, “MmHmm” (2004)

Boy, do I love Relient K. On the list of my favourite Christian artists, they rank high (somewhere between Plus One and Delirious). Between lead singer, Matt Thiessen‘s vocals and the great lyrics, I have enjoyed every Relient K album to date.

Their latest release, MmHmm is no exception. Although the guys drop the funny act they’re known for (meaning no “goofy songs” like “Sadie Hawkins Dance” on this album), they reach deeper territory, and sings song that are truly about living life as a Christian, as well as the struggles and triumphs we all go through.

If you’re listening to the album on a CD player, rewind it a bit and you’ll get this opening hidden track, MmHmm. It’s not really that great- it’s only about thirty-seconds and consists of the guys humming. I mean, its okay, and you might grin a bit, but it’s nothing compared to my favourite Relient K hidden track- “Combos and Skittles”.

The album starts off with The One I’m Waiting For, a song that could easily be on some secular pop band’s album (it really reminds me of a few songs by either Simple Plan or Fall Out Boy). This isn’t one of my favourite songs, probably because of that reason. This song is catchy, and it’s worth listening to, but at this point in my journey with Relient K, I really am here for the thoughtful and unique lyrics, and well, this song just lacks them. The song is about waiting for the perfect person, and it’s a decent song, but again, not what I was waiting for.

Be My Escape was the first single of the album. I remember flipping by MTV one day and to my utter surprise and joy, the music video was playing on TRL. I think the great thing about it, is that this song is obviously about God and a spiritual relationship, and you can get that message without Thiessen and the guys hitting you over the head with it. I’m hoping that the “MTV audience” will see it as more than just another song about regular relationships and get something more out of it. Either way, musically, this song is up-tempo and really fun to listen to. This is another punk sounding song with a lot of guitar work and vocal harmonies from the guys. This song is all about slowly losing your relationship with God, and begging Jesus to help bring you back to where you should be. I love this song, and I think any Christian could relate to the honest lyrics. The song slows down towards the end and the punk beat melts into a soft piano-based melody, which becomes a common theme throughout the album.

High Of 75  is so cheerful and fun that you gotta love it. It starts off really rock based, and somehow ends up with a techno beat during the chorus. Anyway, it’s a very quick tempo song about life before being saved (“And tomorrow I know/Will be rainy at best/And the forecast I know/Is that I’ll be depressed”) and life after (“But now I’m sunny with a high of 75/Since you took my heavy heart and made it light/And it’s funny how you find you enjoy your life/When you’re happy to be alive”) and the struggle that you face on a daily basis (“Because on and off/The clouds have fought/For control over the sky”). There are a lot of double meanings in the lyrics and you have to really look at the words to get all the hidden stuff that Thiessen has going on this song. This is a great track- wonderful to listen to, and lyrics that keep you thinking.

I So Hate Consequences relays the message that we can sin and try to run away from God as much as we want, but in the end, He’s still there, and so are the consequences for our sins. Again, it’s put to a punk rock beat, and ends up being an ultimately catchy song. Besides having an overly long title, The Only Thing Worse Than Beating A Dead Horse Is Betting On One ends up being an awkward and odd song. I don’t really get the meaning here. I think this song is all about having different outlooks on life and where they will get us- but I’m not sure. The song races by and Thiessen spits out the lyrics as it goes along. Even though it’s fun to listen to, this song isn’t really that memorable and could’ve definitely been scrapped (it’s only 1:13!).

My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend is the closest song to being “humorous” on the album. Actually this song is quite sardonic and borderline mean-spirited, but I still like it. This song is about Thiessen’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend, and he basically says to him, “You messed up, you big loser, and now I’ve got your ex-girlfriend. Too bad you’re missing out!”. The lyrics are unique and there was a lot of smirking going on when I listened to this song for the first time. All in all, this is a really catchy and original song and it will probably be a single down the line. I really like More Than Useless. Here, Thiessen explores the common feeling of feeling useless (“And sometimes I wonder why/Why I’m even here at all”). I definitely feel this way sometimes, and it helps to have this song as a reminder that I’m not useless, and that God put me here for a reason- even though I can’t always see what that reason is.

Matt Thiessen performing.

Which To Bury, Us Or The Hatchet is quite a departure from Relient K’s typical friendly, pop-punk sound. Here the sound is a lot more rock and guitar driven- and there is actually some screaming going on in the chorus. But it goes along well with the subject matter of this song; a relationship gone sour. Thiessen sings to his former lover and goes over the mistakes in their relationship and concludes, “No, I don’t hate you/Don’t wanna fight you/Know I’ll always love you/But right now I just don’t like you”. Wow…some tough words there. But this song is so emotionally charged that you can’t help but think Thiessen is singing from some bitter experience. The song mellows out towards the end and some banjos (yes, banjos) and piano set a soft mood which leads flawlessly into the next song.

Let It All Out is my FAVORITE song on the album, and probably my second favourite Relient K song (After “Less Is More”). Musically the song is very stripped down and consists of the piano and Thiessen’s vocals. Lyrically this song is quite similar to “Less Is More”; how before we can truly walk with God we have to let go of the things of this world and put total, complete trust in Him. I love this song so much because of the honesty in the lyrics (“And You said, ‘I know that this will hurt/But if I don’t break your heart thing things will just get worse’/And if the burden seems too much to bear/Remember/The end will justify the pain it took to get us there”), and the vulnerability in giving all control to God. Of course, it’s a tough thing to do, and all of us struggle with it, but God is delicate with our hearts, and He’ll never lead us astray- which is another point made in the song.

Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been is a great follow-up for Let It All Out. Here, you’ve made the great leap to trusting God and giving him your all, and now you’re looking back at your former self and thinking, “Geeze, I was such an idiot before- I hate my old self!”. Which happens to everyone, but the point the guys are trying to make with this song is that, without your former self you can’t be the person God wants you to be now. It’s a deep concept, but a popular one- even Plus One explores it with their song, Outlaw. This song is a lot more upbeat than its predecessor, but it doesn’t let up on the deep and thoughtful lyrics.

I honestly turn off the CD when I get to these last four songs. Maintain Consciousness starts off very peppy and reminds me off a lot of songs from The Anatomy Of Tongue In Cheek. Lyrically, the song is about how society has taught us to have a short attention span and how we lose interest in pretty much everything. I’m thinking the point is that we need to stay awake and vigilant spiritually, so the guys are using everyday metaphors to convey that, but I’m really sure. It could also just be another sarcastic song that Relient K is so well known for. This Week The Trend is somewhat of a filler track, but it has a few redeeming qualities. The lyrics aren’t too fresh or interesting, but the sentiment of how people tend to let their lives go by with no particular meaning or purpose is good. It’s a bit of a bore to listen to as well, so I usually do just skip this song all together. Again, a good message, but it’s lost because of dull lyrics and a boring sound. Life After Death & Taxes is all about realizing that the life we’re living now isn’t all that important- it’s what happens after this life that is. This song is similar to the one before it, in the fact that I love the meaning but I don’t care to actually listen to this song. Musically, it’s fun to listen to, but it lacks something to make it stand out. As several other songs on the album, the song slows down towards the end, and there’s a round, which is probably my favourite part of the song. I should probably give this song a second chance, because it’s really one of those that has to grow on you, I think.

The album ends on a melancholy note with this When I Go Down. I really like this song. I didn’t listen to it much when I first bought the album, but after reading the lyrics, I started listening to it, and now it’s one of my favourites This song deals with how easy it is to wallow in sin and how easy it is to “fall down”, and how hard it can be to get back up. I think this song was very maturely written, and again, very honest. The song segues into somewhat of a prayer straight from Thiessen’s lips, and it moves me every time I sing it. A great end to the album.

MmHmm is certainly a more mature effort from Relient K. Though I miss some of their sillier songs, I definitely welcome their newly thoughtful and God-focused lyrics, and accessible pop/rock sound.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track List
1. The One I’m Waiting For
2. Be My Escape
3. High of ’75
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. Us or the Hatchet Which to Bury
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 & Taxes
14. When I Go Down

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvz0J0WBZPE]

*This is a “classic” review. I have edited this review for content and formatting, though retained my original opinion of the product.

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