After a year and three months since their last full-length album, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, Canton, Ohio Christian pop-punkers Relient K give their fans the second release filled with rare songs, the first being Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer (filled with Christmas songs that were already released on the band's 2003 album, Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hand). Re-releasing old song is the fastest way to release "new" albums, for sure.
This new release is a mix of two EPs, as the band call them The Nashville Tennis EP (the first half) and The Bee Sides, made of the second half. It's like adding an EP to another to make a full album, but at least you get 26 tracks for a decent price. The thing is, Relient K fans will find the second EP useless, since 11 out of 13 songs were already available on singles, iTunes purchases, import editions or something else.
The Nashville Tennis EP starts with fast pop-punk songs that bring me back to the Two Lefts Don't Make a Right...But Three Do era, with Matthew Thiessen's awesome vocals and Matt Hoopes's catchy guitar solos (these being the only two original band members). Songs like "The Scene & Herd" and "The Last, The Lost, The Least" are really ultra catchy to my ears, and I think they would not have sounded bad on the band's best record Mmhmm as well. "There Was No Thief" is a clear reference to the band's previous song "The Thief," which appeared on the Apathetic EP, as it has the same chorus but a different intro and verses; Thiessen probably found out he was wrong about the older song and made amends. Actually, some other good songs are on this too, such as the semi-hardcore "No Reaction" with its ska chorus, and the funny "Curl Up and Die" with its banjo vibe in the beginning. The last five songs on this EP are quite boring, bringing out the more acoustic and piano ballad-oriented songs the band played on Five Score and Seven Years Ago -- in a Somethnig Corporate way with really mellow melodies that do not always work. The country joke of "Bee Your Man" is silly unenjoyable.
The second part of the record, The Bee Sides is made of songs I had already heard in the past, except "Here I Go (Demo)" and "The Stenographer (Demo)," which are probably the best songs on this. I like the acoustic versions of "Up & Up" and "Hope for Every Fallen Man," but the original ones are overall better. Songs taken from the band's endless number of EPs appear here and there, as "Wit's All Been Done Before," "For the Band" (a funny tune where Thiessen says that everything he does is done for the band) and "The Vinyl Countdown" (a wrong song about the downfall of vinyl in favour of MP3s), but the best songs are "Five Iron Frenzy Is Either Dead or Dying" and its wannabe ska versions, two 40 or so-second songs that made me laugh a bit.
The thing is, this album is nice if you discovered Relient K with some of their major releases and you do not know their obscure back catalog made of ten thousand EPs. It gives you a nice view on how the band started as a pop-punk band influenced by the fast guitar riffs of NOFX and MxPx and grew up, becoming a rock band with a soul of their own. Of course, if you have all the band's releases, this is just a good way to enjoy the first half of the record. Consider the second half a gift.