Evolution does not always bring positive changes, no matter what Charles Darwin taught the world. The new Relient K album is the proof. These Christian kids (who maybe don't even believe in Darwin's theory) keep on evolving their sound with such mediocre results that one could easily believe this is not the same band.
On their previous -- and early -- records, Relient K played some amazing, fast and ultra-catchy pop-punk tunes inspired by the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day, with great records as The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek or their super poppy Two Lefts Don't Make a Right...But Three Do that opened their doors to the world. The following big leap forward happened with Mmhmm: major production, ultra thick vocals, poppy melodies, and a consequently amazing result. After that, it's been all downhill for the ex-foursome, now-fivesome band from Ohio.
The new album see lead vocalist/guitarist/pianist Matt Thiessen and guitarist/vocalist Matt Hoopes (the two remaining original members) and the new guys (from ex-bands Ace Troubleshooter, Audio Adrenaline and the O.C. Supertones/Demon Hunter) making the slow songs the most important part of the album. The result is that after the two first fast songs, the whole album becomes quite a copycat of Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate, or even Coldplay. This slower delivery was only employed for a couple songs throughout past LPs, and it's now the opposite; it's rare you hear Relient K playing pop-punk music.
Forget and Not Slow Down is basically made of 11 full songs, with several intro and outro tracks pushing it to 15 total tracks. The greatest music comes from the title track and the following one, "I Don't Need a Soul," which is probably the best Relient K song since the Mmhmm era. "Sahara," featuring guest vocals from Tim Skipper of House of Heroes, Aaron Gillespie of Underoath/the Almost and Matt MacDonald of the Classic Crime, is another great composition, with both fast, almost grungy guitar rock riffs, and slower -- yet not necessarily boring -- moments. Of course, the other two "desert-themed" songs, "Oasis" and "Savannah" sound like childish concept songs.
The rest of the record is made of piano-driven ballads, heavily influenced by the likes of '90s adult alternative pop-rock. "Candlelight" is probably the most boring song I haven't heard in church, and even though "Part of It" has got Thiessen's great vocals, it remains cheesy. The midsection of the record is made up of these slow tunes. The last part sounds more promising, with some nice pop-rock hits like "If You Believe Me," which is a great tune about love relationships with deep words ("If you believe me, we could stand the test of time like no one else") and "This Is the End," which starts slower but ends up a great pop-punk song. Thissen is a master at doing this kind of thing.
Lyrically, Thiessen still deals with love gone bad, as on the title track which is about forgetting and moving on emotionally. That is basically the whole idea of the record: concentrating on doing things better. The end is respectable but the means is quite a loss, frankly: pop music that will stick in your ears for a couple of days, but that after that will fly out as fast your hear whatever the next hit single is on the radio.
So, if evolution fails (the band's previous work, Five Score and Seven Years Ago was the beginning of Relient K evolving their pop-punk sound to pop-piano), I am quite sad writing this: I miss the times of "Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry" and "Mood Rings," but I guess that's probably just me missing some great memories that Relient K used to bring in their songs. The only thing I can hope is that Thiessen will start the band's de-evolution process quite soon.