“Somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looks like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year,” Brandon Flowers sings in the Killers’ big hit. “I owe it all to the mistake he made back then,” Relient K’s Matthew Thiessen sings on Mmhmm. “I owe it all to my girl’s ex-boyfriend.” The fourth album by these energetic Ohio kids—unknowns to Chingy fans, but golden gods on the Christian pop-punk circuit, a constituency that recently debuted Mmhmm inside the Top 20—is filled with wholesome refractions of alt-culture edge like that. In “I So Hate Consequences” Thiessen spends last night “tearing down every stoplight and stop sign in this town” trying to outrun the traffic cop upstairs; in “More Than Useless” he wonders “why I’m even here at all” before finding reassurance in a keyboard line as crisp as a Communion wafer.
Yet despite the absence of blowjobs and 40-ouncers and black eyeliner (Beelzebub they’ve got), Relient K don’t bland out into mere utility. Thiessen self-flagellates as passionately as any emo infidel, and Matthew Hoopes has mastered the holy trinity of major-label pop-punk guitar: chug, crinkle, and cream. Call ’em Jimmy Eat Right and Sleep Tight.