Relient K: ‘Mmhmm’ Track-by-Track Album Review

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

2004 was a big year. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, Hugh Laurie graced us with the irreverent Doctor House, and reality TV was dominated by Laguna Beach. Crazy, hey? What’s even crazier is that it’s been a decade since pop/punk outfit Relient K released their album Mmhmm. In light of the fact we’ve been given 10 wonderful years to revel in the  beauty of “More Than Useless” and ponder about how Matt Thiessen maintains his extraordinary hair, I figured it was time to join the boys as they celebrate with the Mmhmm 10th Anniversary Tour and review the classic record that defined our teenage years.

Opening with “The One I’m Waiting For,” we are given a taste for the excitement and rhythm heavy sound of the album. This tune pulls together the band’s trademark pop vibe and mixes it with a poignant message about waiting to be in a relationship with the right person. It’s catchy, it’s the anthem of 00’s church kids everywhere, and when they say “Live your life with those that you love,” it reminds us never to settle for second best.

The iconic sound of “Be My Escape” makes it one of the band’s most memorable songs. A melody driven by electric guitar that climaxes at a simple chorus, Thiessen’s smooth vocals balance the intricate rock melody effortlessly. And while “High of 75” still raises questions for people who live outside the US (convert to Celsius already!), a chronic chord progression and lyrics about the weather manage to explain the encumbrance and beauty of our emotions today.

The punk goodness continues in “I So Hate Consequences,” and Relient K show off their ability to transition from a vibrant and overwhelming melody, to a soulful reflection on what it really means to experience grace and mercy. “The Only Thing Worse Than Beating A Dead Horse Is Betting On One” puts the boys in the running for the award of The Longest Song Title Ever (10 points if you can tell me what the lyrics actually mean), and “My Girls Ex-Boyfriend” is a proverbial tribute to any dude who breaks a girl’s heart. To this day, if you play this song for your girlfriend she’ll likely be yours for life.

The introduction alone of “More Than Useless” is enough to take you back to 2004, and this hit will have you bopping along as the sound of the keyboard transports you to a younger, geekier version of yourself. The tone drops slightly with “Which To Bury, Us Or The Hatchet” and an insistent baseline sets us up for a tale of heartbreak. A passionate delivery of lyrics means this tune stand outs among the band’s discography, and we are shown a rawer version of Relient K.

Followed on by “Let It All Out,” this song is an authentic, piano driven tune that hard core fans will warm to for the softness in tone. The vibe (and volume) goes up again in “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” and the memorable melody makes this a definitive track on the Mmhmm release. The four part harmony in“Maintain Consciousness” brings out the quirky side of Relient K we’ve come to expect over the years, and “This Week The Trend” is a cool and upbeat take on living life with a renewed purpose and hope.

A heavier sound comes with “Life After Death And Taxes,” and in untraditional manner, the band compares the certainty of a life lived by faith with taxes. Original yet somehow still deeply riveting, this has Relient K stamped all over it. Finishing the album off with “When I Go Down,” the stripped back acoustic tune leaves us on a hopeful note. Different in tone to the rest of the album, the intentionality of the lyrics and electric guitar line brought in after the chorus ties this song, and the album, together.

10 years since it was released, and Relient K’s Mmhmm is a portal to our awkward teen years. The beautiful moments, the embarrassing, the moments of intense emotion, and the days we searched for meaning will all come to surface again as you revisit this classic album. And aside from the fun of being able to sing along to every track, you’ll also find that this album is as poignant today as it was on its release. Mmhmm shows 00’s pop/punk at its best, and I’m ever so thankful Relient K is bringing the nostalgia back 10 years later.