RATING: 4.5 / 5 stars
By Chris Moore:
Relient K’s new 2009 release Forget and Not Slow Down — the Christian rock band’s sixth studio album — is a fine addition to their catalog. Indeed, if the recent history of Relient K has been one of striking a balance between their trademark tongue-in-cheek moves and being taken more seriously, then this album is the ultimate realization of that endeavor.
Taken one song at a time, this latest release may not initially measure up to the standout tracks of their career — think: “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” “Falling Out,” “Getting Into You,” or “Sadie Hawkins Dance” to name a few. And yet, perhaps for the first time in their now decade-long career, Thiessen and company have assembled a truly excellent album.
To be sure, this is the first Relient K release to transcend the bounds of the standard “15 or so songs we wrote and recorded around the same time” theme of their previous records.
THE REVIEW CONTINUES AFTER THE BREAK…
Forget and Not Slow Down
1) “Forget and Not Slow Down”
2) “I Don’t Need a Soul”
4) “Flare (Outro)”
5) “Part of It”
8) “Over It”
10) “Oasis (Intro)”
12) “Baby (Outro)”
13) “If You Believe Me”
14) “This is the End”
15) “(If You Want It)”
“You’re not the first thing in my life I’ve loved and lost,” lead vocalist Matthew Thiessen croons in “This is the End (If You Want It),” the aptly titled closing track . Simply put, this love and loss that Thiessen refers to is the driving force that unites each thread of the album .
Thus, approached as a study of one man’s reaction to the end of a serious relationship, Forget and Not Slow Down is an engaging concept album from start to finish.
The opener (and title track) sets the scene for what is to come, laying out the philosophy of accepting what is in the past, “gather[ing] regrets for the things I can’t change now.” The second track, “I Don’t Need a Soul,” echoes this sentiment and can be read as a further declaration of independence.
The third track marks an abrupt change of pace, finding Thiessen singing the praises of a woman so beautiful as to attract so many fireflies to her “Candlelight” as to obscure her view, a beauty so pure that it results in pinched nerves in the necks of men turning around too quickly to look at her.
The idealized view of this woman is only temporary as “Part of It” finds the narrator “working with adhesives, chains and locks and ropes and knots to tether.” Thiessen continues, “But nothing’s sticking to the pieces; I can’t seem to hold it all together.” This is where the concept of the album truly begins to crystallize: a man is suddenly on his own — he wants to “forget and not slow down,” but vacillates between renewal and denial.
“Therapy” is a travelogue of a man on his own, riding with only music to accompany him, dressed in the clothes he woke up in. Soon after, “Over It” is about moving forward, but seems less convincing for the repetition of the chorus.
Which brings us to “Sahara,” the hardest rocking song on the album (and probably the one that most deserves the reference to the Foo Fighters that Theissen made during a recent interview). This track is all about frustration and airing out the scars sustained during a previous relationship.
“Savannah,” with the placidly beautiful “Oasis (Intro)” and distorted “Baby (Outro)” is the perfect follow-up to “Sahara,” and the listener can feel the calm that comes over the narrator as he refers not so much to the actual Savannah, Georgia, but rather to what the town represented for them in their relationship.
“If You Believe Me” could be read either as an “I told you so” moment or as a statement to a potential new lover, but there is no mistaking the message of “This is the End (If You Want It).” There is frustration, but there is more importantly closure and peace in this final track. It is truly the payoff moment for the entire album — it is not the best or even my favorite song, but it provides the perfect ending, both musically and lyrically, for this outstanding concept album.
At the end of the day, Forget and Not Slow Down appears doomed to be marginalized by the mainstream music press. Thus far, Rolling Stone has essentially ignored its existence. Indeed, Relient K does seem to have found themselves being written off by both rock critics (as “Christian rock” and thus not palatable to a larger, secular audience) and original fans (for having signed on with a major label).
Still, the new album debuted at #15 on the Billboard 200, as well as scoring favorable reviews in the independent press. The only small press reviewer to award fewer than four out of five stars gave a largely favorable review, only vaguely noting that, “There are some tracks that aren’t entirely appealing.”
And if that’s the worst he could write about this album, then perhaps there is still hope that it won’t be ignored — or entirely forgotten — after all…