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Album Review: Relient K - K Is For Karaoke

Now that we’ve established that karaoke is indeed spelled with an ‘a’, as is funnily enough, the proper spelling of ‘reliant’, Christian pop punk group Relient K have emerged from a string of commercially successful albums and EPs with their hearts on their sleeves. However, no strangers to gimmicks (with two Christmas albums under their belts), this covers album, charmingly entitled ‘Is For Karaoke’ to compliment the band’s exploitable name, is both their latest effort and a retrospective look at a music scene that the band emerged, guns blazing, into the fray of.

Some might say that Cyndi Lauper is a strange choice for an album of rock covers, but album opener ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is not only of the caliber of epic punk cover band ‘Me First And The Gimme Gimmes’ but its guitar-clad reinterpretation of its intoxicating riff truly is something to behold. This; along with the cover’s gang vocal climax give, if anything more depth to what was already a pretty well-realized song.

That being said however, it’s hard to make a Justin Bieber song sounds even credible, and though giving it the Cyndi Lauper treatment could have worked, Relient K’s cover of 'Baby' differs so little from the original it’s almost generic. Despite the fun that seemed to go into the opening track, there was little excitement to be felt with this cover.

In a similar vein, though Relient K’s cover of Chicago’s ‘You’re The Inspiration’ is a fun tribute to a great song, it doesn’t quite meet the bar set by its opener, a quality that was almost matched in the lesser known ‘One Headlight’ (by The Wallflowers), in fact, the nature ‘You’re The Inspiration’ is such that one of the best versions can actually be found on the Nintendo DS game: ‘Elite Beat Agents’.

Cake’s ‘The Distance’ however, is a schizophrenic romp through a multitude of instruments and different aspects of music that seem to coalesce together with awesome bass and guitar lines to form something like a very pleasant traffic jam in New York City.

Unfortunately it would seem that in some aspects of this album Relient K bit off more than they could chew. There are some really fun moments on the record, even some that improve on the original songs. But there are moments such as the backline’s lack of enthusiasm on 'Baby', and Matt Thiessen’s vocals not being quite the standard of Cee Lo Green’s (which honestly would be a hard job for the greatest vocalists) which make the album rather a hit and miss affair, as opposed to the celebration of music and Relient K’s style that it could have been.

In spite of this however, it’s hard with a song such as Toto’s ‘Africa’ to even gather the nerves to cover, and not only did Relient K give it a go, they did a very impressive job of what might be one of the most definitive musical moments of the last thirty years. More of this if there is a next time please, more of the fun songs that fit in with the karaoke theme, and less of those that don’t quite fit the band, because if ‘Africa’ and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ prove anything, it’s that Relient K can pull of a cover or two.


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