Generally, itâ€™s not easy to make the transition from a more heavily punk-influenced sound to a more alternative, almost indie style. Yet they seem to have accomplished that in their most recent offering, â€œPeople and Things.â€
And theyâ€™ve done a solid job at that as well, including several songs that feature a sound that channels Orange County, New York more than Orange County, California (where the band originates from) with a focus on guitars, deeper lyrics and even a more pronounced piano sound, which has generally been what the band has been most known for.
Three years after the release of their previous album, â€œThe Glass Passenger,â€ Jackâ€™s Mannequin has returned with the 2011 release of â€œPeople and Things,â€ the third studio album of the alternative band headlined by front man Andrew McMahon. The result is a more polished, mature-sounding album that sends Jackâ€™s Mannequin into a realm beyond the standard alternative/punk genre that their first two albums consisted of, with â€œPeople and Thingsâ€ showing off the bandâ€™s musical talents in a more mature way.
The album seems to draw more off life lessons while presenting their true musical abilities on a grander scale through songs that produce a significantly more optimistic sound than their last offering.
For those unfamiliar with Jackâ€™s Mannequin, the band began as a side project for McMahon, who had achieved success as lead singer of pop/punk/rock band Something Corporate in 2004. On the final day of production on â€œEverything in Transit,â€ the first album for Jackâ€™s Mannequin, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which required immediate chemotherapy treatment and a halt to any promotion of the recordâ€™s release by the lead singer.
McMahon eventually recovered, while continuing to write during his recovery, and the album was a success. This led to the bandâ€™s second album, â€œThe Glass Passenger,â€ in 2008. The album reached a more mainstream level, likely helped by an appearance on â€œThe Daily Show,â€ and the lyrics of the album took a definitive tone regarding how McMahon dealt with his recovery from cancer.
The lyrics on â€œPeople and Thingsâ€ do reflect his recovery in some ways as well in certain songs, including â€œHey Hey Hey (Weâ€™re All Gonna Die)â€ (which was actually written several years earlier, with its first lyric â€“ â€œthe glass passengerâ€ â€“ serving as the title of their 2008 album), and the last track on the album, â€œCasting Lines.â€ But the tone of the album on the whole, especially McMahonâ€™s writing, generally seems to reflect the maturity of the band as a whole with a more grown-up sound that seems to fit as McMahon and the rest of the band approach their 30s.
The album comes out strong, opening with â€œMy Racing Thoughts,â€ a track that would not be out-of-place if performed by indie mainstays Hot Hot Heat, who McMahonâ€™s vocals bear a striking resemblance to on this track. From there, it picks up with â€œRelease Meâ€ (a track that almost has an 80â€™s sound â€“ dare I say, Survivor or Foreigner?), â€œAmy, Iâ€ (the catchiest song on the album), and â€œHey, Hey, Heyâ€ which appears to be a definite crowd favorite at concerts.
After a powerful start, the album slows down slightly with more low-key tracks like â€œAmelia Jeanâ€ and â€œPlatform Fire.â€ Despite the slightly quieter sound of these tracks, the powerful presentation and lyrics still come across quite well, as they do on â€œHostage,â€ which bears a slight resemblance to â€œThe Resolution,â€ arguably the bandâ€™s biggest single to date. â€œRestless Dream,â€ a relatable love song, is much quieter and low-key than the rest of the album, and the most accurate portrayal of the bandâ€™s true evolution.
To say that their previous two albums werenâ€™t polished or mature would be wrong, but itâ€™s a testament to the talent of the band. The sound of â€œPeople and Thingsâ€ truly reflects a step forward for the punk darlings of a decade ago. Itâ€™s no doubt that what this band has gone through has helped them into producing an album that shows off their versatility.