I guess I shouldn’t be surprised- they said they were making a dance-pop record, and that’s exactly what we’re getting. When I think of Collapsible Lung as an album made by a lower-rung, second-rate pop band leftover from the 2000s, then I’m mildly pleased by it. But it was made by Relient K, probably the best pop-punk band ever, and most definitely the best in the genre that also identifies openly as Christian. I’m reminded of Magna Carta… Holy Grail: this should have been better. However, the difference here is that I knew what I was getting into when I started listening to Collapsible Lung; I knew it would be different, I knew it would be a little more shallow. And so I enjoyed the catchiness of some of the songs, I bopped my head along with several of the anthems, and I willingly set aside any desires for another pop masterpiece a la Forget and Not Slow Down. And you know what? Collapsible Lung isn’t half bad.
We can’t just ignore Relient K’s awesome discography. To do so, would be to forget several great albums and too many great songs that have come to define Relient K. As a Relient K album, Collapsible Lung is their biggest departure ever. I’ll post later this week about Relient K’s great albums and songs, so I won’t get too much into it here. But suffice it to say, Collapsible Lung just sounds different. The songs sound more produced, more bent toward synths and away from guitar. Matt Thiessen’s voice is less front and center, and the hooks are a little simpler. The lyrics don’t come off as mature, and, dare I say it, there are very few clever lines, something that Relient K has always been good at. And, perhaps most lamentably, there’s less of a focus on God and our need for Him. All of this seems to make total sense once you learn that not all of the songs were written by Matt Thiessen, who has been the main creative force in the band. Indeed, several songwriters not affiliated with the band were involved.
Don’t get me wrong- Collapsible Lung has some very enjoyable songs. Album opener “Don’t Blink” is a catchy single that would be at the head of the pack in anyone else’s discography. There are hints of Thiessen’s witty wordplay on “Can’t Complain” and “Sweeter”. And the best song of them all, the title track at the very end of the record, boasts the most earnest chorus on the album. It’s no coincidence that it also sounds the most like previous Relient K records. And that’s the problem with Collapsible Lung as a whole: Relient K has done such a good job establishing itself as a reliable (relient?) punk-pop band that we spend the whole album waiting for the band to return us to the heights we’re used to. When it succeeds at the very end of the album, it’s too little too late. But hey, in the end, catchy songs and a couple winners isn’t a bad haul.