After years of touring with Something Corporate, Andrew McMahon finally got the chance to return home to Los Angeles, California and get reacquainted with regular life in 200. Out of that journey and the scribbled notes that came from McMahon’s private sketchbook came the concept album that gave birth to Jack’s Mannequin. Everything In Transit represents a chance for Something Corporate’s former frontman to try something different, and the result is nothing short of remarkable. The punk overtones of his previous band are replaced with a lighter, poppy aesthetic, relying heavily on piano rock and McMahon’s vivid first-person narratives to entertain the masses. And in both aspects, Jack’s Mannequin succeeds. Upbeat and optimistic songs are balanced by reflectively melancholy ones, but they all maintain the fresh and enjoyable pop punk sound that makes Everything In Transit such a surprisingly pleasant album. Although McMahon fans haven’t gotten anything from Something Corporate since 2003, it’s hard to fault him for sticking with Jack’s Mannequin after such a charming and affecting revelation.
“The Mixed Tape” features of the best guitar riffs of the album, allowing Bobby Anderson the freedom to live it up a little, especially with the opening and central guitar riff that screams California pop punk. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee’s contribution, an upbeat and engaging drum beat, is more compelling than anything Motley Crue ever put on display. But McMahon steals the show, as he often does on Everything In Transit, with upbeat and stirringly emotive piano and his mostly restrained vocals that give way to pure sincerity as he swoons, “Where are you now? / As I’m swimming through the stereo I’m writing you a symphony of sound / Where are you now? / As I rearrange the songs again this mix could burn a hole in anyone / But it was you I was thinking of.”
Between its animated and scaling piano work, deep but buoyant drumming and McMahon’s wonderfully elevated singing, “Dark Blue” makes its mark as one of greatest highlights of Everything In Transit. Like many of the album’s ambiguous lyrics, this song also has an unclear meaning, but McMahon gets the central point across with his simple but provocative question, “Have you ever been alone in a crowded room?” Its upbeat and simultaneously heartfelt nature fits perfectly with superb piano work, McMahon’s candid vocals and unpredictable drumming to make “Dark Blue” the best song of the album.
Swaying more on the pop side is the moog synth-dominated “Miss Delaney,” which also features kazoos and another obscure plot line involving McMahon’s experience in a complicated love triangle. But in spite of the apparent sadness of its lyrics, Miss Delaney comes off as uplifting and cheery more than anything else, displaying the album’s overarching content and accepting mood.
Despite being pegged simply as a piano rock/pop punk blend, the musical eclecticism of Everything In Transit is pretty impressive, as the harmonica of “La La Lie” lends itself to a long list of instruments employed by Jack’s Mannequin, including sitar, melodica, accordion, organs and bells. Andrew McMahon’s personal narratives on relationships and other matters of the heart have never been so well articulated, lighthearted or enjoyable, making Jack’s Mannequin’s debut an endearing and fun experience despite some of its more emotional content. The piano, reserved guitar riffs and consistent drumming create a mellow and relaxing tone, at which point all McMahon has to do is show up and deliver his genuine and composed vocals to make Jack’s Mannequin complete. Fans of The Fray, Go Radio, Something Corporate, The Maine, The Academy Is…, The Rocket Summer, Dashboard Confessional, Motion City Soundtrack, The Format and Cartel should enjoy McMahon’s new project as the next step in his ascending career. Because although a Something Corporate reunion would make a lot of people happy, it’s doubtful that number would match how many the breakthrough Everything In Transit won over for Jack’s Mannequin.
Final Score: 8.8/10
Rank: 1st (three total albums)
- Holiday From Real
- The Mixed Tape
- I’m Ready
- La La Lie
- Dark Blue
- Miss Delaney
- Kill The Messenger
- MFEO Pt. 1 – Made For Each Other / Pt. 2 – You Can Breathe
- Into The Airwaves