Jack's Mannequin - People and Things
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Record Label: Sire Records
Much has been made of Andrew McMahon’s personal struggles – the hardships he has faced are well known enough that no history lesson is required here. Through Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon has released two albums, both of which have seemingly held a more personal bond to McMahon than his work with Something Corporate. McMahon is unique in that he has fronted not one, but two bands that have held a remarkable longevity with fans – Something Corporate still finds relevance despite a lengthy hiatus and Jack’s Mannequin has been a favorite since its first full-length, 2005’s Everything In Transit.
While 2008’s The Glass Passenger was praised as a triumph for McMahon, and while that record might objectively be the better of the first two Jack’s albums, a lot of core fans missed the sunshine that filtered through the tones of Everything In Transit. Jack’s Mannequin’s latest album, People and Things, does its best to combine those two worlds. Some songs (“Platform Fire,” “Casting Lines”) harken similar sounds to The Glass Passenger, while others (album standout “Hey Hey Hey”) even have lyrical references. Still others, like opening track and first single “My Racing Thoughts” and the airy “People, Running” feature bright hooks to appease fans of Everything In Transit.
Another, slightly less obvious, aspect of McMahon’s style comes through on People and Things more than Jack’s Mannequin’s last efforts. Influences from Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and other classic singer/songwriters are clearly felt in tracks like “Amelia Jean,” which tells a great story, and the piano-led, but rock and roll-driven, “Television.” McMahon called People and Things a “relationship record,” and such themes come through in almost every track. Unlike the status quo, however, McMahon’s lyrics don’t focus on fluttery, fleeting lust, but rather a deeper, lasting, more realistic and tangible love. The result is an intimate listen throughout, and when one couples this intimacy with the diversity and excellent pacing and structure of People and Things, it’s obvious upon first impression that this is a special pop record.
The middle of the record features a series of the four strongest pop-oriented tracks on People and Things. “Amy, I” will become an instant sing-along, while more than a few Jack’s fans will already be able to interact with “Hey Hey Hey,” which has been a constant in live shows for a while already. “People, Running” is McMahon’s best lyrical performance on this album, and “Amelia Jean” closes out that series in strong fashion. “Hostage” provides an amazing vocal performance from McMahon – and really, to some extent, all of this record’s success is derived from his crisp vocals – while “Restless Dream” and “Casting Lines” provide an acoustic, then piano-led closing to the album.
All in all, People and Things hits home as an almost surprisingly diverse record from Jack’s Mannequin. Those who are entering their mid-20s should be able to take the lyricism in stride, as one specific quote from McMahon will surely ring true.
If that decision shaped People and Things into the record it turned out to be, it might have been McMahon’s best choice ever. Without alienating Something Corporate diehards, or, for that matter, those who love Everything In Transit to death (because I do, too), it isn’t a stretch to call this the best record of Andrew McMahon’s career. It’s almost a given that no pop album this year will be able to match the depth of this release.