Music Review: Relient K’s “Forget And Not Slow Down”

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.


"Forget and Not Slow Down" - Relient K (2009)

"Forget and Not Slow Down" - Relient K (2009)

Forget and Not Slow Down


1)    “Forget and Not Slow Down”

2)    “I Don’t Need a Soul”

3)    “Candlelight”

4)    “Flare (Outro)”

5)    “Part of It”

6)    “(Outro)”

7)    “Therapy”

8)    “Over It”

9)    “Sahara”

10)  “Oasis (Intro)”

11)  “Savannah”

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…

Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums

(Arranged in ascending order by release date)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Battle Studies – (John Mayer) – MAYBE

(November 17, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Battle Studies may not be Mayer’s best work, but as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs, it’s head and shoulders above Continuum. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbreak Warfare” – “Assassin”

Alter the Ending – (Dashboard Confessional) – MAYBE

(November 10, 2009) Review: About mid-way through, some tracks begin to blend together, but there are some standout songs that are both upbeat and engaging. Top Two Tracks: “Belle of the Boulevard” – “Until Morning”

Sainthood – (Tegan and Sara) – MAYBE

(October 27, 2009) Review: Their best work since So Jealous. Top Two Tracks: “Someday” – “Don’t Rush”

One Fast Move or I’m Gone – (Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard) – MAYBE

(October 20, 2009) Review: Not a breathtaking masterpiece by any means, but there is a hypnotic quality to the combination of Farrar and Gibbard’s sounds and Jack Kerouac’s words. Top Two Tracks: “These Roads Don’t Move” – “California Zephyr”

The Fountain – (Echo & the Bunnymen) – MAYBE SO

(October 12, 2009) Review: Most reviews have jumped to the extremes, and mine is no exception; The Fountain is an outstanding rock album from a band that most major music magazines have essentially ignored. Top Two Tracks: “Live of a Thousand Crimes” – “Drivetime”

Forget and Not Slow Down – (Relient K) – YES

(October 6, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Hands down the best concept album of the year, perhaps the best album of the year overall. Top Two Tracks: “Part of It” – “Sahara”

Backspacer – (Pearl Jam) – YES

(September 20, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: This is the album that may single-handedly be responsible for my eventual hearing loss – it’s simply too much fun not to listen to at high volumes. Top Two Tracks: “Got Some” – “Speed of Sound”

Levitate – (Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers) – NO

(September 15, 2009) Review: I try to avoid comparisons to past work, but this new Hornsby album is just a little too far out from the norm for my tastes. Top Two Tracks: “Space is the Place” – “In the Low Country”

A Brief History of Love – (The Big Pink) – NO, PLEASE, NO!

(September 14, 2009) Review: I’m reminded of the Byrds song “Everybody Gets Burned” – if you have any respect for rock music, steer clear of this album and do your best to never consider this band and the amazing debut release of The Band (to which their name alludes) in the same thought. Top Two Tracks: n/a

Humbug – (Arctic Monkeys) – MAYBE SO

(August 25, 2009) Review: The distance between how little I like early songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” compared with how much I like this new release is vast; overall, Humbug has a cohesive, infectious, and interesting sound, blending alternative rock/punk stylings with echoes of the Who and the Moody Blues in all the right places. Top Two Tracks: “Crying Lightning” – “Cornerstone”

My Old, Familiar Friend – (Brendan Benson) – MAYBE SO

(August 18, 2009) Review: From “A Whole Lot Better” onward, Benson’s latest release is joyful power pop that borrows generously from the sixties and seventies; it’s a great deal of fun from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Garbage Day” – “Misery”

Release – (Sister Hazel) – MAYBE NOT

(August 18, 2009) Review: This album is the perfect choice for background music: it is consistently upbeat without being too frenetic, certainly won’t offend anyone, and yet isn’t likely to inspire or even excite anyone either – the heinous typos in the booklet don’t help their cause. Top Two Tracks: “Vacation Rain” – “Ghost in the Crowd”

Ursa Major – (Third Eye Blind) – MAYBE NOT

(August 17, 2009) Review: There will supposedly be another 3eb release soon titled Ursa Minor, culled from tracks that didn’t make the cut for this album; suffice it to say that Ursa Major gets an “eh” and barely a “Maybe Not” rating with the so-called best songs from their recent sessions, so… Top Two Tracks: “Bonfire” – “Summer Town”

xx – (The xx) – MAYBE SO

(August 17, 2009) Review: This debut release by the xx is a gripping, murky, beautiful collection of songs that won’t fail to draw you in to their world each listen. Top Two Tracks: “VCR” – “Shelter”

The Ruminant Band – (Fruit Bats) – MAYBE SO

(August 4, 2009) Review: Aptly titled after the Fruit Bats took twice as long as usual to release this record, The Ruminant Band is worth all the extra wait time:  still quirky but with a lot more energy, backbeat, and attention to making a great album, rather than just a compilation of songs. Top Two Tracks: “The Ruminant Band” – “Singing Joy to the World”

Strange Cousins From The West – (Clutch) – MAYBE NOT

(July 14, 2009) Review: You’ll have to go back to Blast Tyrant or so if you want original, innovative Clutch; what you’ll find here is confined by the blues parameters the band has imposed on themselves – which is not to say you won’t find largely powerful performances of largely predictably structured songs and a couple true gems. Top Two Tracks: “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” – “Minotaur”

Horehound – (The Dead Weather) – MAYBE SO

(July 14, 2009) Review: The Dead Weather certainly deserve credit for having forged a unique sound and presence – Jack White best described their music as “ferocious” – but the riffing, repetition, and other indulgences can be distracting; overall, as a debut release, Horehound is promising… Top Two Tracks: “I Cut Like A Buffalo” – “Hang You From the Heavens”

Ocean Eyes – (Owl City) – MAYBE

(July 14, 2009) Review: A bit too placid for me, but I can perceive at least part of the reason that this album’s simple, soothing numbers have spread so quickly and been embraced by so many. Top Two Tracks: “Fireflies” – “The Bird and the Worm”

American Central Dust – (Son Volt) – NO

(July 7, 2009) Review: As the title implies, Son Volt’s latest album could have been found buried in a collection of Americana; while it certainly hits high points on certain tracks, the simplicity of the arrangements and even the packaging (no lyrics – really?) confine this album to mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “No Turning Back” – “Jukebox of Steel”

Leaving Wonderland…in a fit of rage – (Marcy Playground) – MAYBE

(July 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Overall, Leaving Wonderland hits emotional pay dirt with the theme of losing love and youth to the ravages of time, and yet John Wozniak’s lyrics and arrangements leave much to be desired in terms of depth and artistry. Top Two Tracks: “Gin and Money” – “I Burned the Bed”

Wilco (the album) – (Wilco) – YES

(June 30, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: An atypically brief release, Wilco (the album) is dominated by a wide range of interesting sounds and ideas all packed into tight tracks that ebb and flow just right; multiple listens are a must. Top Two Tracks: “Wilco (the song)” – “You Never Know”

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (Dave Matthews Band) – MAYBE

(June 2, 2009) Review: “DMB” has produced a very strong album that starts off with focused, expressive tracks yet lags somewhat in the second half’s instrumental, repetitive, and nonsensical indulgences. Top Two Tracks: “Funny The Way It Is” – “Time Bomb”

Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

(June 2, 2009) Review: Finally, a stripped-down recording from a rock artist that doesn’t reek of the urge to “jump on the acoustic train”; Costello’s songs here could just as convincingly  have been recorded a century ago. Top Two Tracks: “Complicated Shadows” – “Sulphur to Sugarcane”

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) – YES

(May 15, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Another concept album of epic proportions from Green Day:  big, in-your-face power chords at some points, acoustic guitar and piano high in the mix at others, and strong vocals all around – a well-executed album from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Last Night on Earth” – “East Jesus Nowhere”

Together Through Life (Bob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

(April 28, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: As per usual, Dylan says it best: “I know my fans will like it; other than that, I have no idea.” Top Two Tracks: “Shake Shake Mama” – “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”

Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) – NO

(April 21, 2009) Review: I remembered while listening to this that there’s a reason I stopped buying Fountains of Wayne albums since Traffic & Weather, and there’s certainly a reason I’ve never bought Hanson albums. Top Two Tracks: “Back With You” – “Nothing to Me”

Halfway There (Jim Fusco) – YES

(April 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: It’s as if all of Fusco’s previous work was only “halfway there” – combining ambitious vocals, innovative guitar parts, and a track listing that boasts eleven great songs, this is easily one of the great albums of 2009. Top Two Tracks: “I Got You” – “Ruins”

The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) – MAYBE NOT

(March 24, 2009) Review: The Hazards of Love will keep you guessing and trying to piece it all together, but it may not get a lot of immediate repeat listens based on the quality of individual songs; kudos to the Decemberists if only for keeping the concept of the concept album alive and well! Top Two Tracks: “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” – “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”

No Line On The Horizon (U2) – MAYBE NOT

(March 3, 2009) Review: There’s something to be said for Bono’s energy, but it’s not always enough on this record which fluctuates between moments of mastery and moments of mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – “Stand Up Comedy”

Keep It Hid (Dan Auerbach) – MAYBE

(February 10, 2009) Review: Essentially, what you would expect — gritty, bluesy rock with excellent guitar work. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” – “My Last Mistake”

Working On A Dream (Bruce Springsteen) – MAYBE SO

(January 27, 2009)  –  CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: The past three Springsteen albums have been exercises in purposeful songwriting, raw acoustic and harmonica work, and upbeat pop/rock respectively — Working On A Dream has it all! Top Two Tracks: “What Love Can Do” – “Life Itself”