Front man and cancer survivor, Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin rang in a new year with a new album. The Glass Passenger came out the first day of 2010 as the follow-up album to Everything in Transit, which was released five years earlier. The former lead singer of Something Corporate was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia just three months prior to Jack’s Mannequin’s first album debut. It would appear that five years has not only put him on the road to recovery, but has also invoked an increased and deeper appreciation of life and all of its beauties. The Glass Passenger is very much a reflection of that.
Andrew McMahon has come a long way since his flip flop-wearing days heading the piano driven, punk-rock band Something Corporate. Directly after high school the band immediately gained a following and made three records in three years. The success and break-neck pace took a toll on the band and their relationships, so in 2004 they took a hiatus. During this time Andrew McMahon channeled all of his energy and emotions into a side project: Jack’s Mannequin. The success of Jack’s first album, Everything in Transit, and McMahon’s brush with death inspired the second album, The Glass Passenger.
In this sophomore album, all the compositions stay true to the upbeat and mellow undertone Jack’s Mannequin is known for, but there is a mastery and maturity that was lacking in their first album. And it’s no wonder, because Everything in Transit was more about the failure of a long-term relationship and the alienation Andrew McMahon felt upon returning to his home town. In contrast, The Glass Passenger addresses issues on more complex levels. It’s a memoir of all of McMahon’s adventures and hopes as he readjusts to what he views as a new world fraught with new-found emotions and meaning. The lyrics and impassioned vocals are tinged with anxiety, but there is also a bounteous river of optimism coursing throughout the entire album. “Swim” starts out slow and melodic as he sings, “You gotta swim / swim for your life.” And later, when the chorus crescendos, he proclaims, “I’m not giving in / I swim.” Fans of the supernatural and “The Mixed Tape” will love the very first single from The Glass Passenger: “The Resolution”. It is piano punk-rock at its very best, and the music video was co-directed by none other than vampire authoress Stephanie Meyer.
The Glass Passenger has many creative facets that the previous album lacked. One of them is harmony. Stacey Clark provided lovely accompaniment in the songs “Crashin” and “Spinning”. In this new album, Jack’s Mannequin also experiments with different sounds, instruments, and synthesizers. This is evident in “The Bloodshot”-which almost comes off sounding reggae-whereas “Annie Get Your Telescope” is reflective of iconic 80s love ballads, and “American Love” is evocative of Tom Petty. The last song is very dynamic. “Caves” draws you in with a touching piano solo and builds up by adding orchestra in little pieces until the finale climaxes with drums and guitar. This catharsis is a fitting finale for the album.
As the last notes fade away, you might have mixed feelings: melancholy from the reminders of mortality and elation caused by the determination of human spirit, but also confusion evoked by the complex, jumbled journey of music and lyrics. As Andrew McMahon said on his official website, The Glass Passenger is a record about getting through something that was negative and getting to something that was positive.” Like its title suggests, The Glass Passenger is very much a testament to the fragility of the human condition. It is about the good, the bad, and the ugly in our life experience; Andrew McMahon took all three aspects and turned them into something sincere and entertaining. To experience this piano-filled journey in person, come see Jack’s Mannequin perform at Salt Lake City’s In the Venue on February 9th.