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Relient K
[ two lefts don't make a right... but three do ]


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Two Lefts Don't Make A Right... But Three Do - Click to view!Welcome aboard the rK Express. I'll be your tour guide for today as we explore every last nook and cranny of Relient K's third album, Two Lefts Don't Make a Right….but Three Do. Some stopping points on our tour include, but are not limited to: musical improvement amongst all band members, more memorable and well-produced songs, minor cases of dreaded, meaningless lyrics, nostalgia, and finally, the location of the best song on the record. I'd like to ask you to remain seated at all times, because in spite of the band's rapid growth of maturity, it's going to be a wild ride, as always. Please do not feed the moose.

We begin our scenic journey with "Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry." This opening punk number slams rhythmic guitars and pulsing drums towards the back of your ear canal, promoting excessive head-nodding and feet-tapping. It also sheds light on several important facts, one of them being how far Relient K has moved away from their traditional punk roots and Power Ranger-like morphing into the heavy pop/rock act they are today. Secondly, you'll instantly notice a tighter cohesiveness amongst the band's instrumentation than on previous efforts - these payoffs make for a much better sound than Anatomy of the Tongue and Cheek had. But forgive me, I've prattled on too much. Moving right along…

Next we visit the pointless philosophies of "Mood Rings" and the much lower-key "Falling Out." The latter is the first track to contain any traces of a message whatsoever: "I won't think twice or even three times / about taking a gamble with you / cause with my life you have been so kind / I take all my comfort from you," but unfortunately it lacks the traditional rK charm that draws you into the song and then holds you captive until it concludes. "Mood Rings," on the other hand, begins with a couple of soft-spoken verses about explosive girls and then explodes into the chorus itself. Overall, Matt Thissen's plan to get all girls to wear mood rings is a noble one, indeed, but the concept barely makes for a listen-worthy cut. Unfortunately, a few other tracks fall into this same category, such as "Hoopes I Did It Again," "Gibberish," and "From End to End." We won't be stopping at these tunes during our tour, but you may take snapshots as we pass by.

Further ahead on the disc, we see an entourage of notable Relient K material. "Forward Motion" leads the pack with clean harmonies by the boys and a clever take on perseverance: "To experience the bitter sweet / to taste defeat / then brush my teeth." If you'll look to your left, you can see Dave Douglas recreating the infamous 80's drum loop for the nostalgic "In Love With the 80's (Pink Tux to the Prom)." While it happens to be another pointless lyrical diversion, it's the most fun one on the record, citing recognizable 80's icons and even musically resembling something from two decades ago. More zaniness abounds when Thissen glorifies the plight of most "College Kids" in song. His quick-witted lyrics descriptively hit the bullseye, and this song, along with "Trademark," makes a move back into punk territory. Although both feature sharp, bouncy guitar chords, "Trademark" makes stupendous use of them to accompany an open scolding on pride and self-centeredness.

We're nearing the end of our tour now, ladies and gentlemen, but there are still some notable stopping points left. Specifically, "Overthinking" and "I Am Understood?" Sonically, "Overthinking" resembles your standard, upbeat rock anthem, but in actuality, the lyrics prove it to be a cross between a love song and a bitter break-up song: "And while I'm able / I think I'll label / experience with you as a mistake… / if you're my dream please come true." Adversely, listening to the first few seconds of "I Am Understood?" leads one to believe that it's the mellow, soul-stirring ballad of the album, but further listening reveals it to be the most intense cut yet. Epic vocal harmonies cross stellar, grinding strings to create a flammable punk outburst with a desperate, worshipful plea: "Your voice has broken my defense / let me embrace salvation."

Our last stop today might not be something you're accustomed to, but for Relient K it's a huge step in the right direction. The comfortable "Jefferson Aero Plane" to your right comes equipped with steady, paced guitar riffs, enjoyable yet meaningful lyrics, and most importantly, heaps of experimentation with piano, programming, and voice effects. This results in an energetic, pop-laced sing-along and undoubtedly the best track on the CD. Furthermore, if you remain on the "Jefferson Aero Plane," it will provide you an entertaining visit with "The Worst Freestyle Rapper Ever." Since our tour has officially come to a conclusion, we won't have time to take this conjuncture today. However, feel free to check it out on your own time.

As you can see, Relient K has undergone ample growth and maturity since their last effort, shaping Two Lefts... to be a bold, flavorful project. Much of the punk sound we've grown accustomed to on their debut has vanished, but strides such as "I Am Understood?" and "Jefferson Aero Plane" offer a new direction for the band: let's just hope that they take it in the future. Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the rK Express I'd like to say, "Thank you," for riding with us today, and please watch your step as you exit the vehicle.
- Rick Foux
September 2003
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