The pop-punk band Relient K is, from left, Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes and Dave Douglas.

The pop-punk band Relient K is, from left, Matt Thiessen, Matt Hoopes and Dave Douglas. (Courtesty of Gotee Records)

Relient K has grown up.

On its first few CDs, the pop-punk band offered a light-hearted look at life and relationships. The discs were filled with witty, off-kilter observations and lyrics. The music often bounced closer to pop than punk.

But on the band’s fourth full-length disc, “MMHMM,” frontman and songwriter Matt Thiessen offers deeper insights and edgier music. The wit is still there but the songs offer more to ponder than a few clever phrases. And the straight-forward guitars and pounding drums place the disc more firmly in the punk category.

“Be My Escape,” which currently rides atop R&R’s Christian rock radio chart, typifies the disc, flowing from assertive guitarwork to an acoustic finale while discussing doubt, insecurity and grace. “I So Hate Consequences” is one of the strongest songs of the disc, exploring mistakes and pleading for God’s help.

The punk beat pushes its way forward in “The Only Thing Worse Than Beating a Dead Horse Is Betting On One” — about truth — and “Which To Bury, Us Or the Hatchet” — about a failed relationship. The “old” Relient K is most evident in “My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend,” which offers the view that “If it wasn’t for him, he would be able to see that, if it wasn’t for him, he’d be as happy as me.”

A mellower tone emerges in a few songs, such as “Let It All Out,” which delves into the complex nature of pain, and “When I Go Down, which ends the disc with reflections on turning to God amid failure.

Like the band’s previous discs, “MMHMM” has a lot of say about relationships — with friends, girlfriends/boyfriends and God — but the level of the discussion has matured significantly.

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Contemporary Christian artists are usually quick to offer support and thanks to U.S. troops serving overseas. Sometimes the thoughts find their way back again.

In Iraq, Staff Sgt. Blake Fletcher is commander of a security truck for the 256th Brigade Combat Team, part of the Louisiana Army National Guard.

Fletcher recently wrote to members of the worship group Phillips, Craig and Dean about “how much your music has blessed me and has helped keep me in the right spirit.” The staff sergeant agreed to let the message appear here after it was brought to Stripes’ attention.

On Dec. 16, Fletcher and his crew were called to the tactical operations center, where he learned that an improvised explosive device had hit a Humvee, killing a young lieutenant and wounding the rest of the crew. Fletcher’s job was to escort unit leadership to the hospital.

While at the hospital, Fletcher led a prayer for the group of visitors. But on the way back to his forward operating base, he was overwhelmed by thoughts of what Christmas would be like for the family of the fallen lieutenant and for his own family.

Feeling depressed, he knew he had to pray again.

“I laid on my bunk and put on your CD, ‘Let the Worshipers Arise.’ As I played it, the first song came on, ‘I Am A Friend of God.’ That spirit of depression and fear left me in an instant and I went to sleep with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. It was probably one of my best nights of rest in a long time.

“I have seen things that no man should have to, but that is our calling on the battlefield. I have called Jesus’ name many times over here. There is just something about that name that gives power, peace and direction. …

“I wanted you to know how your music has blessed my life.”

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Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears on the Religion page.

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