REVIEW: Jack’s Mannequin – People and Things

 

Andrew McMahon is the lead singer for Jack’s Mannequin and his voice never changes. Neither do his songs. Way more than half a decade ago I spent my days and nights in a basement listening to very few bands, all of whom I still listen to. Metric was one (early on); so was HelloGoodbye. So was Keane (back before they were upbeat). So was Jack’s Mannequin, a band created as a side project but which ultimately became McMahon’s main creative outlet. Their first album, Everything in Transit, was heavily played (I actually found it on a MySpace page for someone else named Kyle).

A few years ago, a second album (named The Glass Passenger) came out and I didn’t like it that much. It had a very obvious radio-friendly track called “The Resolution” and it was just too peachy for my taste. It’s kind of like listening to a David Usher album– there’s always one radio track. There were brief spots of hope though. “American Love” was great.

The thing I can never really get past with Jack’s Mannequin, like with Red Hot Chili Peppers, is that they’re so California.

The first album sounded so strongly ‘California’ that it was unavoidable but back then it was perfectly fine. It was a first CD. When it kept coming back for more in later CDs, I realized that it wouldn’t go away. It’s just a bit trying is all.

But I can safely say that People and Things is not The Glass Passenger which, admittedly, bored me a great deal– and that’s an odd thing to say considering that both of the first two albums sound so similar. People and Things is actually better. Yay!

The first single (and first track) is “My Racing Thoughts” which, I guess, is the radio single you’d have to expect. But it’s not bad. It’s no “Resolution”, but it’s not as fresh as one would want. It still sounds like EIT. “Release Me”, right after it, is also pretty good.

“Television” almost begs the listener to open up their windows to look forward to happy days on the horizon. It’s not as blatant as an Owl City song in its message; it’s tinged with a certain ‘attitude’ that comes from both McMahon’s voice and the California influence. Again.

Continuing through the album, songs like “Amy, I” and “Hostage” actually come across quite strongly. And what a pleasant feeling to realize that an album like this is on the upswing! “People Running” is actually a great, uptempo song smack-dab in the middle of the disc. Then again, some tracks like “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)” just sound whiny…but I felt the same feeling from “Swim” on their last album, and everyone seemed to like that enough.

By far, the best song on the album is “Restless Dream”, a song featuring McMahon, a guitar, and some strings. Although his voice can grate after a while, this song redeems. How crisp and fresh!

What I do find pretty cool is Sire Records, Jack’s Mannequin’s label, who also back Tegan and Sara, Regina Spektor, and The Veronicas. It’s nice to know that someone out there is sponsoring the not-quite-indie-not-quite-pop-is-it-alternative? crowd. Jack’s Mannequin isn’t for everybody (the genre, vocals, and lyrics will not mesh with everyone by a longshot) but this is a good album. It’s not as great as their first but it’s miles ahead of their second. For an album title that implies a mishmash of whatever, this disc is strongly organized and quite well-defined.

(7.4/10)



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