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Jack's Mannequin
The Glass Passenger
Sire Records
www.jacksmannequin.com


It's been roughly four years since former Something Corporate singer Andrew McMahon released his first solo CD under the pseudonym Jack's Mannequin, and with the recent release of The Glass Passenger it is apparent that real life drama is what fuels earnest and heartfelt music. Having been diagnosed with leukemia after the release of Everything In Transit, Jack's Mannequin's first album, McMahon took a leave from music to focus on his health. His struggles have come to fruition in the form of this darker collection of songs that invert the light-hearted and sunny shine of Everything In Transit. But does such a turn threaten to alienate fans or repel those sweetened to the addictive hooks and poppy beats from his earlier work?

Not likely. Everything In Transit is thought by many to be a modern day classic in the genre of pop-punk. And while The Glass Passenger may not be as instantly accessible or as lyrically and musically fun as Everything In Transit, we must keep in mind that fun alone does not a good album make. The album begins with McMahon's trademark piano ushering in the familiar sound that fans have long become attuned to. "I want to hear some music," is the first line of the disc and such a sentiment echoes the much awaited anticipation for McMahon's return to those who love him the most, his devout fanbase.

The darker tones of the album, while making the disc quite somber, provide the deepest insight into one of the most underrated songwriters of his generation. His focus has widened from typical teenage love woes ("American Love"), to include self-reflections on his battle with cancer (on the especially powerful and inspiring "Swim"), the chemistry between musician and audience ("Hammer and Strings (A Lullaby)") and even several jabs at current politics and media: "Got my news from the CNN, like sheep to the slaughter." Standing out amongst the simply satisfactory tracks is "Annie Use Your Telescope" that is dreamy, hypnotic and haunting with gorgeous strings and a distant Andrew McMahon wailing along with his piano. It's the occasional magnificent song like this that demonstrates how much growth can take place between two records - Andrew McMahon's skills at songwriter are the best they've ever been here.

On first track, "Crashin'", McMahon ponders: "Even if my voice comes back again, maybe there'll be no one listening." He has nothing to worry about though, for The Glass Passenger offers up what Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate fans have always wanted; earnest, vulnerable and dependable songs performed by one of the most underappreciated talents in today's music scene.

-Josh Page

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