The Glass Passenger

Conjured up by Andrew McMahon of American rockers Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin is your typical generic American band; guitars, pianos, a whiny singer and a dash of emo thrown in for good measure. Like the majority of such bands, McMahon also has the extraordinary ability of empowering the feelings revealed in his songs with a sense of the epic, turning even the most mundane songs into a haven of emotion that fringed, black-wearing teenagers throughout America will belt out when feeling their most tearful. Unsurprisingly this means that the band have picked up bucketloads of adoring fans from the very moment of their conception five years ago, with their first album, Everything in Transit, selling a ridiculous 22,163 copies the very week it was released.

Despite this however, unlike most other bands, McMahon himself does have had something to cry about. In June 2005 he was diagnosed with leukaemia, and although he has now completely recovered, enabling the band to recently release their second album, The Glass Passenger, it was no doubt a painful time. The fear and anguish that McMahon experienced during his illness linger like ghosts in the background of several of his songs, brought forth from the shadows by some particularly poignant and heartfelt lyrics. ‘Caves’, one of the last songs of the album, is a very profound and touching emotional reflection on his experience, with lyrics such as ‘said we’re not gonna lie, son, you just might die’. Other songs, such as ‘The Resolution’, are filled with hope and inspiration and the incredible victory he felt when overcoming his battle with the illness.

In between these songs however, the album seems to rather slide downhill, becoming a mere mish-mash of mixed messages and muddled meanings behind songs. ‘Suicide Blonde’ – an attempt to let some sun through the grey clouds and add to the album a more light-hearted, up-beat element, sounds immature in comparison. It is understandable that McMahon wants to give his album a bit of a smile, when so much of it is composed upon sadness, but the happier songs are attempting to be catchy in a way that is just annoying. In addition, he attempts to slide in a few political statements here and there, which have no real place in the music he is making or the messages that he is trying to get across. As a result, the delicate emotions he creates in a few songs are cruelly and whole-heartedly suffocated by the uninspiringly bland nature of the rest of the album.

I’m sure that, for the band’s thousands upon thousands of fans out there, this album is a triumph; a glorious victory and a shining declaration of determination from a man whose musical career, and life, was once in dire jeopardy. Yet, apart from the few heart-wrenching songs regarding McMahon’s illness, the rest of the album is rather unremarkable. Unremarkable and uninspiring. Generic American Rock seems to be its unshakable middle name. And, from a man who probably has so much to tell about his experiences, this really is a shame.


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