After surviving the breakup of his teen band Something Corporate and a life threatening battle with leukemia, Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon is once again focusing his attention on what he does best, which is making poignant, piano-based alt-rock. On JM’s third album People and Things, McMahon and company (Bobby Anderson, Jay McMillan, with guest appearances by current Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg) tackle themes concerning everyday struggles of life and immortality.
Kicking off the set is first single “My Racing Thoughts,” which is a superb piece of piano rock that rivals some of Elton John’s best ’70s hits. Noticeably absent this time around are the usual teen angst lyrical confessions, which have been replaced here with grown-up introspection. This change is most evident in the tracks “Restless Dream,” which is a stripped down slice of musical melancholia, as well as in the surprisingly upbeat doomsday ode “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die).”
The bulk of McMahon’s lyrics on People and Things mostly dive into familiar, yet highly relatable topics of affairs of the heart, but are delivered with staunch veracity that makes the subject matter seem transcendent. No earth shattering revelations are to be found on this disc, but this latest musical opus is full of catchy hooks and strong melodies galore, which are easily among McMahon’s best offerings to date.
The emotional closer “Casting Lines” provides the perfect ending to this impressive musical jaunt about pondering where we belong and coming to terms with our own fates, as its final refrain states: “You learn to run, you learn to race through life/This unforgiving pace, these lines we’re chasing to the truth.”
Although Jack’s Mannequin hasn’t been able to match the balls to the wall gusto of Everything in Transit, its 2005 critically acclaimed debut, People and Things is easily the most musically cohesive album in the band’s catalog thus far. There is no vexing filler to be found anywhere on this disc, which these days is an unusually rare thing. Dedicated fans will want to download the hauntingly ethereal iTunes bonus track “Broken Bird,” which was questionably omitted on the physical copy of the record and manages to encapsulate all of JM’s best qualities in one song.