It was a long four years between Forget and Not Slow Down and the release of Relient K’s new album Collapsible Lung. Was the wait worth it? Collapsible Lung has certainly received mixed reactions from fans and it largely centers around the lyrical content of the album. Lead singer Matthew Thiessen co-wrote many of the songs from Collapsible Lung with a myriad of songwriters who have mainly worked with secular acts in the past.
The two main byproducts of this pairing are musical diversity and lyrical shallowness. Some fans have criticized the musical diversity but I think it is a welcome change. Relient K has evolved their sound slowly over the years and have been writing more complex songs for several albums now but Collapsible Lung is completely different from anything they have released in the past. One of the things that gives a band a unique feel is the melody choices of the songwriter and lead singer. So when a band that has a large discography under their belt releases an album that has many outside contributors there is often a palpable difference in the type of song melodies that fans are used to. I for one think this is one of the high points of Collapsible Lung. I love Matt Thiessen’s songwriting but hearing him do different things with his voice than we have heard on every other Relient K album is like a breath of fresh air.
The other major departure for Collapsible Lung is the lyrics. Matt Thiessen is one of those rare songwriters that can easily combine lyrical wit with depth of subject matter. Steve Taylor and Reese Roper of Five Iron Frenzy are two other great examples of this kind of songwriter. So when you have an album that features a lot of songwriters who are accustomed to writing meaningless pop music for superstars, well that is what you will get: Meaningless pop. It is isn’t quite that bad because Thiessen still had his hand in every song but the lyrical depth and wit is sorely missing on much of Collapsible Lung.
I’ve read from a few sources that many of the songs on this album were intended to reflect the shallow kind of life he had been living in recent years and that the title track and album closer “Collapsible” Lung were meant to bring it all together to show that Thiessen is finding his way back from that. I get that and it would explain a lot. However, Relient K has to know that much of their audience is young Christian kids and when they are releasing a song about a one night stand or drinking away your problems there ought to be some indication that the behavior is detrimental to one’s spiritual well being. This is absent on Collapsible Lung however.
Overall, I really enjoy Collapsible Lung. I do miss the sure hand of Matt Thiessen’s lyrics on many of the songs but musically this is a much more fun album than they have put in a long time.