Relient K

Is For Karaoke

Written by: TL on 08/10/2011 02:04:25

One band I think does not get talked about enough, considering how consistently good they've been for over 10 years, is Ohio pop/punk/rock veterans Relient K. Maybe it's because they've been mostly cherished by the Christian rock community, and hence it's sort of uncool for anyone else to openly like them, or maybe it's because they've gone through albums and line-up changes without much drama to speak of. Regardless, every album by them that I've had the chance to hear has been quietly great, especially 2009's "Forget And Not Slow Down", so seriously, let's talk about them some more, shall we?

The talk on the band this year is their new all covers album "Is For Karaoke". On it the band offers reinterpretations of 14 songs most of which would indeed seem likely candidates for being sung on a Karaoke machine. I honestly can't claim to have prior knowledge of all of the originals, but as far as I can hear, Relient K have been quite loyal to them, with the exception that the instrumentation is limited mostly to the band's usual smooth piano/guitar-rock setup, with synths, vocal-effects and electronics all but entirely omitted. Point is; regardless of what the originals were played on, here it sounds like they're played on real instruments. Still though, given the mostly poppy origin of the song, the album does still have the band, which was always one of the softer outfits in rock, leaning even heavier than usual on the POP in their pop-rock, and hence the sound is mostly directly comparable to other softies such as Jack's Mannequin, Plain White T's and Mae.

As for how good this covers album has turned out, the first two tracks offer an instant preview of the hit'n'miss quality that characterises it overall. First we have Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" - a cover that shouldn't work, but just really does. And second we have a cover of Justin Bieber's "Baby" which.. Well, it's better than the original I think, but did the world really need this song in the first place?

It's almost a little too predictable, but given how faithful Relient K have been to the original songs, it's a pretty safe bet that you'll like the covers of the songs you liked before. For me this is definitely true with "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" and especially Toto's "Africa", which is the best track of them all I think, yet not so true for Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", which seems a little dull without the original 80s, new-romanticism atmosphere. On the flipside, songs I haven't heard, like "You're The Inspiration" by Chicago and "Interstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots" also do good. Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" is no less annoying than it's always been, although it does show that frontman Matt Thiessen can sing even with the better pop stars, and then there's Cake's "The Distance" which.. Well, let's say it offers a nice change of pace to the record, not sounding like anything you'd expect from Relient K.. Whether that's good or just weird, the jury's still out on.

All in all, what we get here is not exactly mindblowing nor particularly original. I mean what did you really expect from a covers album? It is damn charming and enjoyable for the most part however, and it further solidifies Relient K's reputation as expert musicians, capable of coming up with engaging and catchy arrangements no matter if they're writing their own songs or rewriting someone else's. That alone should make it a very compelling alternative to the grossly auto-tuned and electronically corrected monstrosity that will likely be the next Pop Goes Punk compilation. So yeah, proven songs played by a proven band. What's not to like?


Download: Africa, Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun, Crazy, You're The Inspiration
For The Fans Of: Jack's Mannequin, Plain White T's, Mae

Release Date 04.10.2011
Mono Vs Stereo, Gotee

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