Words by Nicholas Parco
For anyone who grew up listening to pop-punk in the early 2000s, Andrew McMahon is a household name. Over the years he has taken on different identities—first as the frontman of Something Corporate, then as the sole brain behind Jack’s Mannequin—all the while evolving his sound.
McMahon’s latest solo endeavor—under the moniker Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness—is no different. However, the self-titled debut is not only a musical change, but also marks a new chapter in McMahon’s life.
Referring to the final two Jack’s Mannequin records, McMahon, a cancer survivor, recently told Billboard.com that he was “very caught up in illness and recovery,” which “made the two things hard to unwind from one another.”
Survival is not a reoccurring motif on Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, but in classic McMahon fashion, the songs tell stories about what is going on in his life.
McMahon is now a father. This is most evident on “Cecilia and the Satellite,” a song dedicated to his daughter. In one of the bigger pre-choruses on the album, McMahon proclaims, “Through all the things my eyes have seen/ the best by far is you.” The song is quite radio-friendly, and having a Top 40 hit is something McMahon has been open about wanting.
Following up on the autobiographical theme is the track “See Her On The Weekend”. The song chronicles the album’s recording process. McMahon recorded the entire album on a series of weekdays in a secluded cabin away from his pregnant wife. Among quite literal lyrics about the strain it caused on their relationship, the chorus is rather uplifting as McMahon sings, “I’ve been a little hard to reach/ but I know you’re at the beach/ and I’ll see ya on the weekend.”
The song that stands out most is “All Our Lives.” The album has an uplifting lyrical mood, but “All Our Lives” takes a step back and tackles the topic of an old friend going through a rough patch: “There’s only one mistake that I have made/ it’s giving up the music in my fingertips by trying to get to heaven through my veins.” These lyrics sound like they would fit better on an earlier McMahon project.
With this album, McMahon seems poised to have that radio hit that he’s always wanted, and he may very well finally achieve mainstream fame. This collection of songs is far different than anything McMahon did for Jack’s Mannequin—which is not all bad—but the clarity of piano runs and chords that stand out so much on his early music are replaced by drum machines and synthesizers. Growth is something fans love in artists, but it seems that in the process of making Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, the authenticity of the songs that made him so beloved is somewhat lost.
© October 14th, 2014
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