Album Reviews

Album Review: Relient K – Collapsible Lung

on July 02, 2013, 12:00am
Relient K Collapsible Lung D-
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Relient K is having an identity crisis. Every Christian kid has one. Gone are the power chords of their early work, the chamber flourishes of their late-career albums, and, perhaps most conspicuously, all but one reference to their Christian faith. Matt Thiessen and company, long beloved for their wide-eyed innocence and mischievous sense of humor, are barely recognizable on Collapsible Lung, a record frontloaded with generic dance-pop tracks co-penned by associates of Lady Gaga, Cee Lo Green, and Bruno Mars.

Call it Switchfoot Syndrome: as commercial viability rises, references to faith are obfuscated, then excised completely. The men of Relient K have not completely forsaken their Savior on Collapsible Lung, but they’ve traded their trademark songs about faith’s joys and struggles for synth-heavy tracks about casual sex and barhopping.

“PTL”, for example, finds Thiessen channeling Michael Angelakos’ falsetto to lament a one-night stand. Meanwhile, the grating “Lost Boy” collapses beneath the weight of its Maroon 5 influences. Side A’s saving grace is “Can’t Complain”, an upbeat ditty that transcends its Self-Help 101 lyrics with a breezy, tropical vibe that feels like a Relient K song, even if it doesn’t sound like one. Side B fares much better thanks to “Sweeter”, a twangy ballad with country leanings, and the title track, which finds Thiessen convalescing from the hedonism of that which came before.

Like it or not, Relient K was always at its best when directing its gaze skyward. Past hits like “Be My Escape” and “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” benefit from the band’s heartfelt, nuanced take on redemption and other matters of the soul. Collapsible Lung, however, is weighted down by a parade of faceless women, many of whom are reduced to mere sexual objects, resulting in a record that reeks of adolescent rebellion at best and pandering at worst.

“I hope I haven’t heard the last words from the Holy Ghost,” Thiessen sings on “Collapsible Lung”, marking the album’s sole reference to the Holy Trinity. I hope not, too.

Essential Tracks: “Collapsible Lung”, “Can’t Complain”

40 comments

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Christen
July 2, 2013 at 12:33 am

Sounds like you should listen to the title track again.

Caleb Clay
July 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

Very interesting. I am listening to the album right now and thinking the same thing. I got to this by searching “relient k christian” on google because I was wondering if anybody else noticed how far their lyrics have strayed from the old days of never underestimate my Jesus. I sure hope they can get their feet on solid ground again one of these days

Tanner M. Conticelli
July 3, 2013 at 4:03 am

Tim Lambesis is no longer “Christian”… does that mean As I Lay Dying is a horrible band now?!?!?! (Unless you considered the band horrible prior to this, which in that case I question your musical integrity.)

xVulnerable
July 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm

They aren’t a band at the moment, and I found As I Lay Dying a not so enjoyable band.

Guest
July 2, 2013 at 2:49 am

I agree, but Switchfoot Syndrome? Really? Switchfoot always delivers with great songs with great Christian messages.

Benedict Greumach
July 2, 2013 at 5:29 am

I agree with this review. After listening through the album, I’m utterly heartbroken. I wish this album had never come out and they’d just disbanded.

Stephen Shutters
July 4, 2013 at 12:02 am

I felt the same way at first. But then my thoughts changed. Read my review: http://bit.ly/CollapsibleLungReview

xVulnerable
July 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

So, you’ve given up on future records?

Tom Scooter Seiple
July 2, 2013 at 11:14 am

Somehow this review seems to focus far more on the personal lives of the artists and not the music of the band. It would seem that Christians making music can’t make mistakes and can’t make music that doesn’t explicitly mention faith without their music becoming totally irrelevant. Loosen up a little and love the music for what it is. If the pop vibe kills it for you, that’s fine, but don’t rate a record poorly because of the personal lives the artists. If this were the criteria for rating an album, no one would want anything to do with John Mayer or Kanye West’s music.

Benedict Greumach
July 3, 2013 at 3:00 am

This entire album is a brag track about how the main dude cheated on his fiance and banged katy perry. CHRISTIAN!

Tanner M. Conticelli
July 3, 2013 at 4:01 am

Somehow I think you meant to be sarcastic; but I think you fail to realize how accurate your statement actually is.

xVulnerable
July 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

That happened ages ago, get with the times.

Brent A. Brewster
July 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I agree with a lot of this review. The part I take strong exception with is his mention of Switchfoot as the band who supposedly began this pattern.
Yes-if you look at the actual mentions of the words God, Jesus or Holy Ghost-they may have dropped over the years-but anyone listening can still hear their faith present in all songs and their heart has never changed. The same band members-the same mission.
It is absurd to bring them up as anything close to this jump by Relient K. Switchfoot has never had any song suggesting one night stands and loose women and going to bars were acceptable behavior. They personally may drink and frequent bars-who knows-but they do know their core audience and still embrace them and their faith.
Even U2 has never had lyrics like this Relient K does-they by the way are the band you should have mentioned as the prime example of balancing faith with popularity and sometimes masking your faith as not to get banned by radio for being christians.

Charissa Kerley
July 2, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Don’t appreciate the hating on Switchfoot. They continually reference Scripture and promote Christian themes.

extolthechrist
July 2, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I suggest you all dig a little deeper. Just because there aren’t as many surface references to faith as some of you would like doesn’t mean that faith doesn’t influence the lyrics on Collapsible Lung. Matt has written a lot about the beauty of grace, and now he’s writing about the situations we get ourselves in with the result being a need for that grace. I never knew that so many Relient K fans were so shallow and judgmental. Yeah, “Be My Escape” is an amazing song, but what’s wrong with singing about the things we need escape from as well…

Paula Todhunter
July 2, 2013 at 11:48 pm

i thought PTL was about God. was that just me?

Benedict Greumach
July 3, 2013 at 3:02 am

that or Boomerang is probably the best song on it, but it’s not a Reliant K song, it’s more something that would have suited Justin Timberlake.

Paula Todhunter
July 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

I get where you’re coming from, that its not their usual style. But they can experiment and change things, they aren’t bound to just one sound.

Tanner M. Conticelli
July 3, 2013 at 4:00 am

Why are we casting judgment based on their faith? Who cares?!?!?! Are they suddenly better because they reference the word Jesus in their songs? That just seems bias and extremely demeaning to the music by measuring it by references, rather than talent. How is this even a review if every artist that you apparently listen to are placed on a pedestal?

Victoria
July 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Switchfoot syndrome? If anything, Switchfoot’s lyrics have been brought back around again to singing heart-poured-out songs to Jesus. Sure, they had a depressive dip there, but came back through. I hope the same will be said for RK.
Remember, everyone falls and Jesus, in His unconditional love, reaches down and redeems. That’s His business. We can’t even imagine what people in the spotlight get thrown at them everyday. Talk about temptation.
What we should do, instead of shaking our heads, discrediting the band, and walking away in complacency, is to stand and pray for the guys of RK, especially Matt. If they’re suffering from this so-called “Switchfoot syndrome,” then we can have high hopes that someday in the future they’ll be singing again to the One who redeems.

ty_smitty21
July 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Switchfoot is the most authentic Christian band there is. I have absolutely NO idea how this Relient K album is even mentioned in the same sentence as something Switchfoot would do. I don’t get how so many people say these things about Switchfoot… They’ve never been a worship band… But you’d have to be unable to speak English to realize what they’re all about.

Josh S.
July 5, 2013 at 4:39 am

THANK YOU! I commented something similar…and as I scroll through these comments I realize that I’m not the only one who came to their defense.

Julie
July 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm

This is PERFECT. Reflects my feelings almost exactly. I’ve been a big fan since buying Anatomy when I was in 7th grade…I’ve stuck by them but was beyond disappointed by this record. Blah.

Stephen Shutters
July 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I had the same thoughts originally. But then they changed . . . Read my review here: http://bit.ly/CollapsibleLungReview

xVulnerable
July 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Your review is pretty good, though, if you would like some constructive criticism:
The first paragraph is kinda cliched and cheesy, and in all honesty, sounds like something I’d read in a YouTube comment.
You need to use more paragraphs, just on sight the review looks long, enduring and disengaging.
And don’t go into so much personal detail, you barely outlined how the songs sounded, reviews are supposed to be a lot more brief.

Benjamin Mariano
July 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm

It’s not about the format of his review….he’s trying to draw attention to his (well-informed) conclusion: that this is an “I-tried-to-find-the-love-I-had-on-my-own-and-wound-up-not-satisfied” album.

xVulnerable
July 9, 2013 at 10:17 am

But in order to keep a reader engaged to his climatic conclusion, he needs to make it less bulky, and a lot less detailed, otherwise a lot of people aren’t going to read through till the end.

xVulnerable
July 4, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Jesus Christ (excuse my blasphemy), this record was meant to be fun and completely different than anything they’d ever wrote. They used co writes and that just about sums up the outlook they had, and the vision they wanted for this record. They wanted to make a light album.
Relient K hasn’t put out a religious song since Five Score, just because they’re Christians doesn’t mean they have to use the music they make as an outlet of
worship.

shortlikeme87
July 22, 2013 at 10:56 pm

No, they don’t HAVE to make Christian music. But because they are Christians, they can’t and shouldn’t make songs about drugs, sex, and alcohol like a lot of the pop music is about today. That shows non-Christians and questioners what kind of people Christians are. Look at Owl City. His songs are popish and on the radio, but aren’t about the wrong things.

xVulnerable
July 23, 2013 at 3:17 am

They can, and they just did make songs about drugs, sex and alcohol.
Honestly, Christians aren’t perceived so well at all, this album isn’t at all what Christians need to worry about based on self image.

Drudgery
July 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I was thinking about buying this album today, but before I would put down my dollars for it, I wanted to hear if any tracks would make me more excited for it than Collapsible Lung, which I found fairly slow and boring…. and every other song they have from the album up on youtube is a generic pop song. So I looked for reviews and found this one. Reading the comments, I find it hilarious to suggest that setting out to make a pop album and collaborating with pop writers is in any way “experimental” or “taking risks.” Why does Matt Thiessen need to collaborate with ANYONE to write good or clever lyrics? He’s proven time and again he’s capable of it on his own. Everything before this album was pop anyway; I don’t understand why they decided to go full top 40 with this. I am highly disappointed, even more so than with their last album, which I eventually decided that I actually liked, but I wished they would go back to their older offerings…

Josh S.
July 5, 2013 at 2:41 am

Forget Relient K…what’s with the not-so-subtle slam on Switchfoot? If you think Jon Foreman’s lyrics don’t “look skyward”, you obviously haven’t listened to much Switchfoot.

K8
July 5, 2013 at 8:11 pm

THIS… This is just THE single most excellent album review I have ever read. And I could not possibly agree more! I created an account on Disqus just so I could say that. Thank you for this lovely review!

Benjamin Mariano
July 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Switchfoot snydrome? Excuse me? When did Switchfoot ever “excise references to faith completely? I’m sorry, I’d love an example of when that happened!

ShaneFriesen
July 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm

You are wrong on the Switchfoot reference, but dead on with Relient K. Disappointed falls short of how I really feel.

Lexy
July 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Hey guys! Here’s what I found about the meaning behind the album… “The album was entitled Collapsible Lung for a very important reason—the very same reason the final track was in a different pile than all the previous tracks and was given the very same title as the album itself. All the songs before Collapsible Lung were actually meant to sound empty, shallow, watered down, broken, and disjointed, and that is what, ironically, makes them all flow together and lead into the final track—the true underlying message of the entire album. Four years ago, Forget and Not Slow Down was released; it was a concept album entirely about the terrible experience Matt Thiessen had when his fiancé left him. He poured his heart into the album and it was and is a beautiful, heartfelt masterpiece. Somewhere in those four years after its release, “between the miles of open road,” Matt sings on the final track of Collapsible Lung that he “lost sight of what might matter the most” and “stumbled into the great unknown.” The first ten tracks on the album display where he began to look for comfort and satisfaction after his engagement had been terribly brought to an end and also show the emptiness and brokenness in looking to such things rather than to the loving Father he had looked to for many years before. Track eleven, Collapsible Lung, is Matt’s confession—his plea to the Holy Ghost, from whom he “hope[s] [he] ha[s]n’t heard the last words.”

Tony
July 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Switchfoot Syndrome? hahah the lyrics to Switchfoot’s last two albums (which were independently produced) are more advertently christian than their first four.

Josh
July 18, 2013 at 12:44 am

I love how reviews used to be done by unbiased folk with observations that we’re actually valued by music connoisseurs that weren’t in it to try to implant their own agenda. When you spend so much time trying to compare, you’ll always find something that fits it, in a squinted-eye reaching sort of way. Then comes the justification to suit our infantile need to be validated. i.e. Perez Hilton, ragging on people to gain their own 15 seconds of fame… Personally, I’m not a Relient K fan. Haven’t been for a while. However as I view this point of their craft, they don’t have to be childish with their topics. They’ve grown up. They seem to finally be writing true and honest lyrics. We’re messy. We’re humans. Fumbling through a life filled with content accepting grace as freely as it’s given. For one of the first times, they are seeming real & raw. Honest & blunt. I’m sure more than half of their audience can relate to bad choices in life, like a one night stand. Left feeling the long lasting effects, the pain & sting of feeling cast aside, letting God down… finding a related view that says, “I can be redeemed?” however sordid our brief human existence may be. Will past fans accept this new experimental record? That’s 50/50. The real question is “Will people with open minds try something new?” You grow, you learn, you change. That’s only human. This album seems to be a growing moment for them, not having to rely on their tongue-in-cheek, cheesy songs with catchy pop-punk roots. I’ll give the project another listen, which is further than some of the “best selling” CCM artists ever get.

Annie
July 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

“What happened to the salvation you claimed? It breaks my heart to see how much you’ve changed.” …it seems they might be in need of some “lemon pledge” to clear those “cobwebs”

Tori
March 31, 2014 at 8:41 pm

As a kid who was raised conservatively Christian and who was only allowed to listen to Christian bands for most of my life until high school…I’m PLEASED to see this change. Does that sound crazy? Good.

This band has grown with me. As a kid they were singing about God, yes, which meant I was allowed to listen and they were relevant to my then faith-centric life. But even at the time I loved their sound even more than their message. As I grew older, organized Christianity began to make me more uncomfortable and I began to shy away from overtly gospel bands, but I stuck with Relient K because they were talented, fun musicians who also happened to be Christians.

Now, I’m 22, a spiritual humanist rather than an adherent to any religion in particular, and openly queer. For many reasons (my sexuality being a major one) Christianity often makes me anxious and frustrated. However…I can still listen to Relient K with a smile on my face. They have changed as I have changed and, hey, at least I can be hopeful that one of my favorite bands wouldn’t hate me for who I choose to date. (No I’m not saying that all Christians are against such things, just that many are.)

Good on Relient K for making music how they want to!