Jack’s Mannequin is a side project of Andrew McMahon, who used to be part of a garage-band-gone-famous called Something Corporate. His old band dealt with the endless hardships of being teenagers in high school (kissing drunk girls, waking up in cars, calling your girlfriend “punk rock princess” and yourself her garage band king, and all the usual things). However, McMahon has achieved a more refined sound through Everything In Transit: a masterpiece album that will slowly creep up on you when you least expect it.
Once again, I will start my review by describing the physical appearance of the CD. The cover is an illustration of a type of street you will often find yourself on in California. Open the CD booklet and you’ll see more illustrations specific to every song, drawn in the same California-esque style. If you look at the pictures carefully enough, you’ll notice the reoccurrence of some characters. The man is McMahon himself, although it is from when his hair color changed from blond to dark brown after going through leukemia treatment (But that’s a story better fitting to his second album, which I probably won’t be writing about since it was such a huge disappointment after Everything In Transit). The blond woman is the girl he later married.
As you might have guessed from the booklet art, the songs are also about his personal experiences. In fact, they are so personal that the listeners will never fully understand what each song is about. But rather than seeing this as a lyrical flaw, I think this quality is what makes Jack’s Mannequin so special. Because the lyrics are so open-ended, the listener can find a way to relate to the story being told.
If there is one thing that I do not hide, it’s my love for music. There is nothing more exhilarating than discovering a good band: diving into the seemingly endless pool of new songs, digesting the details and making it your own. Perhaps this is why I also enjoy sharing the music that I like; it’s to share that feeling. However, if anyone has ever recommended a new artist to you, you’d know how hard it is to really appreciate that artist as much as your friend does, no matter how hard you try.
Everything In Transit was recommended to me by someone who is now one of my closest friends, and I remember when I listened to the song "Dark Blue" for the first time. I was in my dining room, dimly lit by one of those warm, yellow-toned light bulbs rather than a crisp white light. I was trying to finish my homework as the cold Seattle rain poured down outside my window. Little did I know that this song would introduce me to what later became the album that defined and maybe even shaped my high school years.
Like the picture that I conjure up in my head whenever I listen to "Dark Blue", each song on this album slips me into a reverie. Everything In Transit is one of those rare albums where each song is included for a reason, not just to fill up the track list. And because every song is significant, there is not one that will make you go head-over-heels. It’s just good throughout. Similarly, the memories I’m reminded of aren’t very special. They are ordinary experiences from my life, like walking down the hill in my neighborhood on a sunny afternoon, that I otherwise would not have remembered if it weren’t for the song.
In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward says, "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas, reveals himself. The reason I will not exhibit this picture is that I am afraid that I have shown in it the secret of my own soul." When I lend my CD of Everything In Transit to my friends, this is exactly how I feel. I become hesitant because I’m afraid it will in some strange way reveal intimate thoughts and details about myself.
Perhaps my unconditional love for this album has produced a somewhat narcissistic review. But I’m glad that I didn’t give a comprehensive evaluation because that would lessen the pleasure of experiencing the album and making it your own. The charmingly raspy guitar sound and delightful piano melodies are combined to create a perfect pop record that you could enjoy on your way to school or work on a refreshingly early morning. So lace up your Chucks, plug your earphones in, and take a walk. And maybe, just maybe, it will hit you with such force like it did to me, even if it was recommended.