Relient K

Five Score and Seven Years Ago
(Capitol)

Where its higher-profile tour mates and pop-punk counterparts Simple Plan and Good Charlotte have coupled their massive record sales with face time in the spotlight, Ohio's Relient K has taken a subtler route to the top, remaining virtually faceless to the rock (and punk, for that matter) mainstream while still earning three consecutive gold albums, Grammy nods, TRL hits and Top 40 singles — to name but a few career benchmarks. And while you still couldn't pick anyone but perpetually plaid-shirted frontman Matt Thiessen out of a lineup, Five Score and Seven Years Ago just reaffirms that Relient K doesn't need paparazzi to put them on the charts; the band's songs are strong enough to do the job themselves. Insanely ambitious even for them (the song "Deathbed" alone has 115 tracks and an 11-minute running time), Five Score and Seven Years Ago finds Thiessen & Co. caught between the Beach Boys (the lush, layered harmonies of "Plead the Fifth"), and Ben Folds (the grown-up piano strains of "Give"), making 2004's notably matured Mmhmm sound juvenile. In epic pop-rock throwdowns, old themes of kitsch and pop culture give way to a new focus on spirituality, personal reflection, and unconditional love. Which, admittedly, is a bit risky: With pop-punk kids comprising so much of their audience to date, Relient K now seems to be gunning for the parents who chaperoned them to all the gigs.
 
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