Some bands find themselves defined by their own contradictions. Relient K is among them. The Canton, Ohio-based group has been wrestling with the question of whether they’re a punk bank or a Christian band since their formation in 1998, and despite releasing five albums in the past decade, they still haven’t decided. Their fifth full-length release, Five Score and Seven Years Ago, is a product of that contradiction.
Five Score can be broken into two portions: the songs where Relient K channels Simple Plan and the songs where they don’t. When the group decides to be generic pop-punk, the album is enjoyable if uneven, even if it’s like listening to musical Mad Libs. When they stray from their comfortable pop-punk sound and attempt something different, the album loses momentum. The bulk of the album is a barrage of formulaic, forgettable three-minute tunes, making the 11-minute-long “Deathbed” sound like something stolen from another band. Luckily, it happens to be the last song on the album.
When Relient K is hitting their spots, the album is toe-tapping generic pop-punk. When they’re not, the album is formulaic tripe. The resulting dichotomy between the good and the bad makes Five Score a frustrating listen, as good songs like “Forgiven” tease the listener with a potential that Relient K can’t quite reach. Still, if fans of the band or the genre can remember to shut off the album before the final song, they’ll be able to enjoy Five Score for what it is.