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Fans have learned to rely on Relient K for good music, a message and fun.

That’s probably what propelled the punk-pop band’s “Five Score and Seven Years Ago” to sixth place on Billboard’s overall album sales chart when it debuted earlier this month.

Those who rushed out to buy the band’s fifth disc in seven years probably expected front man Matt Thiessen to deliver whimsical wordplay backed by energetic music. They found some of that, but also found much more.

With the guys now in their late 20s, the stakes are higher and concerns much deeper. As a result, “Five Score” is more mature and reflective than previous albums. It’s also the band’s most musically diverse disc, opening with Beach Boys-style harmonizing on the brief “Plead the Fifth,” and offering some punk and rock before wrapping up with an intriguing ballad.

The disc really gets rolling with “Come Right Out and Say It,” an assertive track that urges honesty amid conflict. That’s followed by “I Need You,” an edgier rocker that calls out for help and security. The first Christian radio single, “Forgiven,” explores guilt and the need for forgiveness.

On the lighter side, “The Best Thing” and “Must Have Done Something Right” joyfully describe relationships that are going well. Those yearning for the old Relient K will love “Bite My Tongue,” which admits to a lack of tact and being too ticked to talk. The old orneriness is probably to blame for “Faking My Own Suicide” — a strange song about prompting a girl to proclaim her love by faking a suicide.

While many tracks examine the joys and pitfalls of human relationships, “Five Score” is probably the most spiritual of the band’s efforts.

The driving “Devastation and Reform” thanks God for providing the insight to make wrongs right. The soaring “Up and Away” maintains hope despite problems and missteps.

The theme continues in the finale, “Deathbed,” an 11-minute epic that marks a dramatic change for Relient K.

Wailing guitars and pounding drums are replaced by a simple piano-driven melody. Verbal acrobatics are replaced by an intense portrait of a man reflecting on a truly sad life as he lies dying of cancer.

Abandonment, drinking and a bad marriage are just some of the “sad memories still haunting me.” However, the mood becomes hopeful and triumphant as he recalls giving his life to Christ.

The song closes with the voice of Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, playing the part of Jesus. It’s a terrific statement about redemption that marks true growth thematically, lyrically and musically.

It’s solid stuff for a band that tells MySpace fans that its music sounds like “Dennis The Menace’s sling shot hitting Mr. Wilson right on the shin.”

Visit the band's web site.

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.

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