Relient K, Is for Karaoke

By Lindsay Williams | contributing writer,
Posted: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 09:12

While it’s fun for your favorite artists to perform cover songs live in concert, it’s quite another for them to set out to make an entire project of nothing but cover songs. Leave it to the always quirky, always unexpected Relient K to do something as out-of-the-box as record a 14-song collection covering some of the biggest hits of the past few decades. It’s an extremely eclectic smorgasbord of songs, ranging from Justin Bieber and Gnarls Barkley to Cake, Chicago and Cyndi Lauper.

Is for Karaoke, produced by Mark Lee Townsend and Matt Thiessen, proves two things. 1) Thiessen & Co. are music lovers with no limits, and 2) Relient K is more ambitious than we thought. It takes courage and immense talent to cover hits and do it well. Yet, what else would fans expect from the clever, tongue-and-cheek band that never lacks for sarcasm?

They even do the Biebs justice with their own pop-heavy version of the teen sensation’s “Baby.” And they give Gnarls Barkley a run for his money with a rock version of “Crazy.” Thiessen hits those high notes without sounding strained in the least. He also delivers Third Eye Blind’s “Motorcycle Drive By” with such ease and nonchalance that it could casually slide onto a regular Relient K studio album. The group pays tribute to other bands from the ‘90s and today, covering cuts from The Wallflowers (“One Headlight”), Cake (“The Distance”), Weezer (“Surf Wax America”) and Stone Temple Pilots (“Interstate Love Song”).

It’s apparent the band members are big fans of the ’70s and ’80s with nods to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Cyndi Lauper, Tears for Fears, Chicago, Toto and more. While the band’s version of Chicago’s “You’re The Inspiration” makes you want to get out those lighters and sway to the melody, that’s likely the exact response the band members hope to elicit. You can almost see them picturing it with mischievous grins as they recorded the song.

The ironic thing is that some of the best tracks on the album will be barely recognizable to Relient K’s core audience. While Weezer might be more of a household name, Tears for Fears could be glossed over as “That’s what my mom and dad’s generation listened to.” It’s an interesting dichotomy that Relient K manages to pull off, but it’s uncertain if those swept up in Bieber Fever will be able to relate to anything past track two. And their cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Doctor Worm”? We didn’t get it the first time.

If it’s spiritual undertones you’re searching for, don’t strain yourself. The album doesn’t contain any spiritual references, but it’s got fun in spades. Play it at your next party and belt the songs out as loudly as possible. Make Relient K proud.

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