Whether the topic of discussion is Something Corporate or Jack’s Mannequin, Andrew McMahon’s emotional honesty and relatable material has always been a staple in what makes his bands’ music so appealing and popular. From the bright, poppy feel of Everything In Transit to the maturity and personal revelations found on The Glass Passenger, Jack’s Mannequin has given fans a healthy dose of piano rock that is both enjoyable and deeply affecting. McMahon’s personal struggles were prominently on display with The Glass Passenger, an album with subjects ranging from broken hearts to his battle against cancer. All of this made for a more complex album, but ultimately rendered it a bit of a downer compared with the unforgettably pleasant Everything In Transit. With the release of People And Things, McMahon attempts to straddle the line between that appeal and exposing his every sensibility, and the results are mixed. Jack’s Mannequin’s third release is a sufficient hybrid of the band’s two polar styles, but doesn’t quite pull either one off with the same efficiency. People And Things will appease any Jack’s Mannequin fan and is still better than most pop/alternative groups today, but it’s probably the band’s weakest work to date.
“My Racing Thoughts” starts the album off on a promising note as an upbeat and all-around fun track that would be right at home on Everything In Transit. This happy opener is dominated by McMahon’s piano and keyboard synths in the background, but Jay McMillan’s spunky drum beat should not be overlooked.
“Release Me” is without a doubt the best song of People And Things. From Chris Chaney’s groovy bass line to the jazzy piano, this single has style and soul, increased only by Tim Pierce and Bobby Anderson’s prevalent guitar riffs. McMahon’s vocals are perfect, ranging from composed singing during the verses to elevated wails for each infectious chorus. This album might be a slight step down for Jack’s Mannequin, but this stellar track certainly shows they’re still capable of producing some phenomenal work.
“Restless Dream” serves as a respite from the more uptempo, piano-driven songs, delivering a memorable and heartfelt ballad accentuated by accompanying acoustic guitars and string instruments. The vocals are composed and enhanced further by harmonizing backup vocals that join in for every chorus, where McMahon professes “Oh, my imagination’s running wild / Guess I missed you from the day that we first met / Crazy, this fascination makes us sound / Like a twister in my mind, restless dream we left behind / I never will forget.”
People And Things isn’t a terrible album by any means, but it doesn’t quite live up to either of Jack’s Mannequin’s first two records. The likable brand of piano rock returns, as does McMahon’s lyrical honesty, but this third album seems a bit lackluster in comparison. Fans of Something Corporate, The Maine, The Academy Is…, The Rocket Summer, Dashboard Confessional, Motion City Soundtrack, The Format and Cartel are more than likely already aware of this band’s ability to combine pleasant melodies with heartfelt and revealing sentiments. Jack’s Mannequin has always been a cathartic project for McMahon, but it doesn’t feel the same this time around. By attempting to mix the happy, light-hearted fun of Everything In Transit and the emotional complexity of The Glass Passenger, People And Things fails to live up to either and results in an album that falls a bit short overall. There are still plenty of songs to enjoy here, such as the sing-along-friendly “Amy, I” or the similarly catchy “Amelia Jean.” But unlike the last two records, expecting anything here more than just the next Jack’s Mannequin album would be a mistake.
Final Score: 6.7/10
Rank: 3rd (three total albums)
- My Racing Thoughts
- Release Me
- Amy, I
- Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die
- People, Running
- Amelia Jean
- Platform Fire
- Restless Dream
- Casting Lines