The year 2005 should have been Andrew McMahon’s year. With his first solo effort, Everything in Transit, slated for a late-summer release and a tour to follow, he should have been celebrating his accomplishment with his band, Jack’s Mannequin. Instead, he spent the better part of the year battling leukemia.
Three years later, McMahon is in remission, and Sept. 30 marked the release of the band’s second album. A record about finding hope through adversity and ultimately, survival, The Glass Passenger is the portrait of a man plagued by the tragedy of disease and consumed by his will to overcome.
Some die hard fans may remember McMahon’s original band Something Corporate, which was formed in 1998. Their major label debut album, Leaving Through the Window, was a huge success, containing hit singles such as “I Woke Up in a Car” and “Punk Rock Princess.”
However, the band grew exhausted from all the time on the road and decided to take a break, while McMahon began a side project: Jack’s Mannequin.
After releasing a string of digital EPs and a short stint on this year’s Vans Warped Tour, Jack’s Mannequin is ready to tour in support of its latest effort.
The band’s signature piano rock is prevalent on Passenger, and McMahon serves up a healthy dose of melodic hooks and both lyrically and musically introspective songs.
The album is dedicated to his sister, Katie, who served as his bone marrow transplant donor. It’s thematic in that while it touches upon his bout with cancer, it never strays far from hopefulness. It demands a maturity and a vulnerability not shown on previous releases, yet the music is lively and upbeat, and listeners will find themselves singing along to the catchy songs in no time.
Standout tracks include “Caves,” a haunting tale of being constrained within the eerie confines of a hospital room. Combined with a somewhat broken-sounding McMahon at its start and a beautiful piano interlude, the song sounds like a hazy dream until it picks up towards the end. “Annie Use Your Telescope” is a nod to McMahon’s wife, which, with its use of soft piano and reverb, seems mysterious and ethereal.
The song “Swim” takes a more uplifting turn, citing the music, family and friends whom he lives for as sources of strength. The first single from Passenger, “The Resolution,” is a strong anthem about survival, something everyone can relate to. “Spinning,” which features singer Stacy Clark, is easily one of the catchiest songs on the album, along with “American Love” and “Suicide Blonde.”
Fans of both the band’s first CD and Something Corporate will take refuge in its relative “poppiness,” but also appreciate a more diverse content.
While most similar bands today typically centralize their work around growing up, partying, and chasing girls, The Glass Passenger offers a more mature perspective on life’s happenings and idiosyncrasies.
The album is a perfectly balanced story that never gets boring; each song is as good, if not better, than the last. Listeners get an additional treat with two bonus tracks and a DVD that features the making of The Glass Passenger.
Overall, McMahon’s words inspire hope and embody courage, a welcome change in a genre that is most often stereotyped as being emotional or depressing.
McMahon’s talent is undeniable. His ability to write and perform an album about the event that changed his life is admirable; his ability to do it well, however, commands the respect of both his fans and his peers. McMahon not only beat cancer, but he also created music that will forever stream through the heads and hearts of his fans, perhaps changing their own lives, one song at a time.