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Relient K
Five Score And Seven Years Ago
Capitol Records
www.relientk.com


If you're a Christian like me, it's sometimes embarrassing to share your CD collection with others. This is because so much of what comes out of Nashville is little more than thinly disguised religious propaganda: Bible verses put to lame rock music does not art make. One big exception to this rule is the always-smart Switchfoot. Another conspicuous one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others is Relient K, and its Five Score And Seven Years Ago is yet one more slice of excellently gutsy rock.

You might not even guess that Matt Thiessen and gang are Christians until he offers up this prayer during "Devastation And Reform": "Thank you, God for giving me the insight/So I might make these wrongs right." Notice how he's not calling down fire and brimstone on anyone during this breathless rock song? Instead, Thiessen is always more likely to deal with the log in his own eye, rather than the speck in someone else's.

Thiessen's musical confessions are couched in enticing and sometimes surprising musical configurations. I particularly like the faux country of "Faking My Own Suicide". It's also impossible to resist loving "Forgiven", which hearkens back to War era U2 with its skittering Edge-y guitar part and echoing piano. Although this band has been linked with the pop punk genre - probably mistakenly - it's easy to pick out old school Beach Boys vocals finding their way into both "Pleading The Fifth" and "Must Have Done Something Right", which are beatific elements light years away from punk.

Best of all, this band's faith-in-music never panders to a Sesame Street-y, everything's going to be alright always approach. For example, "Forgiven" admits: "And I know that I have been forgiven/And I just hope you can forgive me too." Thiessen is certain about his standing with The Almighty. But this doesn't mean his relationship to other humans fits together nicely, like simple pieces in a pre-school-er's jigsaw puzzle.

I can heartily recommend Relient K to believers, agnostics, or atheists alike because Thiessen's circumstances-put-to-song, whether positive or negative, are universally relatable. To paraphrase that old bumper sticker, Thiessen's not perfect, just forgiven. He's the kind of guy anyone can like.

-Dan MacIntosh


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