Reviewed by Mark Plummer
Back in late 2009, an album was released that would quickly assent to be Relient K’s best album to date, both with its critical acclaim and how it was received by fans of the band; that album was Forget and Not Slow Down.  The problem with releasing such a magnificent album would be the follow-up.  Collapsible Lung, is so far-flung from its predecessor that it struggles to show any relation.  Whilst backing this up with the knowledge that Matt Theissen has already openly admitted that this is a pop record, and a pop record that needed to be made and removed from his system, it’s none the less a bold move.

The issue with this record is that pop factor, it’s light hearted, easy listening and definitely holds a boy band quality but with more edge.  Taking nothing away from Collapsible Lung, it’s 100% catchy; the slick and clean nature presents a very straight edge result that is felt in all the nooks and crannies.  There are certainly peaks, opener Don’t Blink is a track that holds more truth to the Relient K of old.  Whilst not the strongest lyrical work, there is a strong vibe of Jimmy Eat World running through the verses that help to balance out a slightly weaker chorus.  The real skill in the track is the production value, knowing that the aim of this album was to release a pop record, what’s achieved here is a pop song that defines the line between rock and pop.  The verses are soaring in the more rock associated, technical ability whilst the chorus keeps the track grounded in the essence of Collapsible Lung.

As the record moves on, there are plenty of shout outs to artists and bands, some that seem obvious like Can’t Complain (Bruno Mars), whilst others that are less so, Gloria (This Providence) for example.  As far as a pop record goes, it ticks a lot of boxes and is versatile to say the least.  There is a rock ‘n’ roll edge towards the end of Gloria that entertains a smile as the subtle undertones of a piano are recognizable, adding something more unique into the pop record clique.  Then from this rock ‘n’ roll, it’s straight into Ptl, a more dance orientated little number, that serves itself best as a tribute to the Bee Gees.  Tracks like Lost Boy, with its whistling introduction, are the pinnacle of what this album is all about, with a magnified chorus and clicks of the hands in the verses.  Then there’s the three-minute wonder of Disaster.  The first verse sound effects lending it a jazzier and more cartoon attire that seemingly roots this track with the likes of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s.  A delay laden electric piano and keyboard, makes way for a horn accompaniment that helps to showcase why this album is good at what it does.

The hardest part of listening to Collapsible Lung is knowing that the next record will be back to something a little heavier and more rock like, traversing back to the likes of previous releases.  After waiting just short of four years for a follow-up to Forget and Not Slow Down, fans will have to wait perhaps another few years for the next release (the fortuitous will hope for another to follow much sooner).  As much as Collapsible Lung breaks the mould of the contemporary pop albums of late, leaps and bounds ahead of the majority, it may struggle to win over fans.  If Matt Theissen needed to write a pop record and get it out of his system, then he’s done a stand-up job, but a return to the Relient K of old is what everyone will be waiting for.

3 out of 5


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