Everything In Transit was a surprisingly superior effort for Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon, who defied expectations with his new project after leaving Something Corporate. With is fun, pop punk vibes that called to California memories while still retaining a sense of poise, intelligence and emotional dexterity, making for a sensational and catchy debut. But soon before its release, McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia and his outlook on life took a slightly dimmer view. The hope and positivity of the lyrics and uppity piano rhythms didn’t disappear, but emotionally revealing songwriting and a weathered maturity gained prominence in the band’s sophomore album, The Glass Passenger. And despite that prominent emphasis on baring his soul through the lyrics, McMahon and company temporarily lose sight of the same fun that made Everything In Transit such a delightful success. It also doesn’t help how experimental Jack’s Mannequin gets with some slightly dystrophic tempos and McMahon’s vocal fluctuations, which display maturity at times but come off as unlikable during others. The Glass Passenger starts off strong and will surely enthrall McMahon’s loyal followers, but it won’t quite win anyone over the way Jack’s Mannequin’s debut did.
The calming guitar riffs of Bobby Anderson open the light and enjoyable “Spinning,” which features a typically catchy Jack’s Mannequin chorus dominated by Jay McMillan’s subtle but attention-grabbing drumming and McMahon’s strained but agreeable vocals. The guitar riffs, upbeat rhythm and pleasing piano in the background make this song however, which manages to leave a lasting impression despite its short length.
As the best song on the album, “Swim” best represents McMahon’s emotional struggle with cancer and his subsequent mental conquering over it. As McMahon encourages his listeners to stay strong and persevere through tough times, it’s hard to ignore the hopeful message coming from someone with plenty of experience who can still play the piano so beautifully. And as McMahon swoons during each synth-riddled chorus, he has the courage to proclaim in the midst of dark and dangerous waters: “I found a tidal wave begging to tear down the dawn / Memories like bullets they fire at me from a gun / A crack in the armor, I swim for brighter days despite the absence of sun / I’m not giving in, I swim.”
“The Resolution” follows up a solid ballad in “Hammers And Strings (A Lullaby)” with a more animated and fun jingle that would have been right at home on Everything In Transit. McMahon’s hope shines through in prominent piano and impassioned chorus vocals, while the guitar riffs and drum beat keep things light for their lead singer to testify. McMahon bears it all on the line as he admits he still has a ways to go, but still has his life and his self to be thankful for: “Yeah I’m alive, but I don’t need a witness to know that I’ve survived / I’m not looking for forgiveness, yeah I just need light, I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution.”
The incredibly open and honest songwriting of McMahon is commendable, especially considering his personal struggles, but they come off as a slight downer for a band that rapidly gained popularity for their happy, easy-going pop punk tunes. The energy and enthusiasm of McMahon is still felt in his passionately strained vocals and fervently affecting piano, but a dark cloud seems to hang over The Glass Passenger, especially for its lackluster second half. From the sloppy, all-over-the-map “Suicide Blonde” to the unenjoyable and undecided tempos of “Bloodshot,” Jack’s Mannequin fails to lift the mood in its second act, or at the very least, keep the audience entertained. Fans of Something Corporate, The Fray, The Maine, The Academy Is…, The Rocket Summer, Dashboard Confessional and Cartel will likely find plenty to enjoy here, especially for the album’s terrific opening act, but this album won’t be remembered with the same fondness as Everything In Transit.
Final Score: 7.1/10
Rank: 2nd (three total albums)
- American Love
- What Gets You Off
- Suicide Blonde
- Annie Use Your Telescope
- Drop Out – The So Unknown
- Hammers And Strings (A Lullaby)
- The Resolution
- Miss California