Generally, it’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, “People and Things.”
And they’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, “The Glass Passenger,” Jack’s Mannequin has returned with the 2011 release of “People and Things,” 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 Jack’s Mannequin into a realm beyond the standard alternative/punk genre that their first two albums consisted of, with “People and Things” showing off the band’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 Jack’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 “Everything in Transit,” the first album for Jack’s Mannequin, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which required immediate chemotherapy treatment and a halt to any promotion of the record’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 band’s second album, “The Glass Passenger,” in 2008. The album reached a more mainstream level, likely helped by an appearance on “The Daily Show,” and the lyrics of the album took a definitive tone regarding how McMahon dealt with his recovery from cancer.
The lyrics on “People and Things” do reflect his recovery in some ways as well in certain songs, including “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die)” (which was actually written several years earlier, with its first lyric – “the glass passenger” – serving as the title of their 2008 album), and the last track on the album, “Casting Lines.” But the tone of the album on the whole, especially McMahon’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 “My Racing Thoughts,” a track that would not be out-of-place if performed by indie mainstays Hot Hot Heat, who McMahon’s vocals bear a striking resemblance to on this track. From there, it picks up with “Release Me” (a track that almost has an 80’s sound – dare I say, Survivor or Foreigner?), “Amy, I” (the catchiest song on the album), and “Hey, Hey, Hey” 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 “Amelia Jean” and “Platform Fire.” Despite the slightly quieter sound of these tracks, the powerful presentation and lyrics still come across quite well, as they do on “Hostage,” which bears a slight resemblance to “The Resolution,” arguably the band’s biggest single to date. “Restless Dream,” a relatable love song, is much quieter and low-key than the rest of the album, and the most accurate portrayal of the band’s true evolution.
To say that their previous two albums weren’t polished or mature would be wrong, but it’s a testament to the talent of the band. The sound of “People and Things” truly reflects a step forward for the punk darlings of a decade ago. It’s no doubt that what this band has gone through has helped them into producing an album that shows off their versatility.