Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Album Review: Relient K - K is for Karaoke (Cover EP)

Cover albums are always just an opportunity for a band to spend lots of time playing and singing their favorite songs, but at least Relient K is willing to own up to the fact.  Their collection of 7 extremely varied covers is titled K is for Karaoke, unabashedly allowing their listeners to imagine the 6 guys crouching over a karaoke index picking their favorite songs to sing (or poke fun at).  If this is karaoke, however, then it is the best karaoke anyone has ever heard, with lots of modern production polish and exceptional vocal performance.  Vocalist Matt Thiessen usually flings out vocals with seemingly no effort, but his performance on the EP’s best track—Gnarls Barkley’s  “Crazy"—belies his impressive talent.  He has flawless control and a comfortable, soaring falsetto and scales the song’s runs with ease.  He also lets in his charmingly foolish side, not taking himself too seriously (much like karaoke perhaps) as he impersonates Petty’s twangy monologue. 

The opening track, Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun” sets the tone for the EP quickly with frenetic guitars and Thiessen’s tongue in cheek, decidedly male vocals belting out Lauper’s decidedly-female anthem.  These features on top of the song’s actual lyrics and title signal clearly that this EP is all about fun.  What Relient K does better than anything else is have fun and this collection is no different—you can tell Thiessen and crew love covering these songs, playing with varying genres, yet still cramming in all the thick textured rock instrumentation they can.  Justin Bieber’s “Baby” is probably the least interesting cover since its modern origins mean that the Relient K cover just doesn’t sound that different. They Might Be Giants’ “Doctor Worm” is simply an odd song and even though Relient K rolls out the horns and Thiessen’s slightly-modified Flansburgh-esque vocals, the quirk is perhaps a bit too much even for Relient K. On the other hand, “Crazy” is the most ambitious song and the band covers it with finesse, vibrato, and the dynamics usually missing from the band’s single-volume pop punk sound, making it both thoroughly enjoyable and also a demonstration of a new side of the band. 

Relient K pleasantly updates a collection of songs that are both timeless (with the possible exception of the Bieber track; it’s a little early to tell) and also perhaps a bit dated with their era-appropriate production and instrumentation.  The songs get a fresh update into the 21st century as well as a warm, slightly punky treatment true to Relient K as a band.  While the average listener probably won’t spend a lot of time listening to this EP from end to end, all the tracks are fun novelties for fans of the originals and especially those fans of the band.

Track Listing:
1. Girls Just Want To Have Fun
2. Here Comes My Girl
3. Baby
4. Doctor Worm
5. Crazy
6. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
7. Surf Wax America

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