Jack’s Mannequin – “People and Things”

Jack’s Mannequin is one of those bands that can make you feel better wherever you are. Hailing from Orange County themselves, listening to them is reminiscent of long summers at the beach and being in good company. Decidedly divergent from previous Jack’s Mannequin records, “People and Things” is a departure from its predecessors both musically and lyrically.

According to the band, “People and Things” is an album that they wanted to make all along. It completes lead singer Andrew McMahon’s journey from the disbandment of his former band, Something Corporate, to his struggle with leukemia in 2005 and his coming to terms with it all.

A good blend of catchy singles and heartfelt ballads, “People and Things” stays true to the Jack’s Mannequin sound while pursuing a new creative direction. McMahon is a master at utilizing poppy hooks to create lyrics sure to get stuck in one’s head for days.

“People and Things” starts off with the catchy single “My Racing Thoughts.” The song features a thumping chorus complimented by McMahon’s brilliant phrasings. “She’s a black cat hangin’ ‘round my doorstep / I’ll need all day tomorrow to recover from today,” he sings in the beginning of the song.

McMahon has always been one to wear his heart on his sleeves, lyrically speaking, and this album is no exception. In the past, he has written about love, breakups, being famous and most notably his struggle with cancer. Unlike the previous two albums, “Everything in Transit” and “The Glass Passenger,” “People and Things” is more lyrically eclectic. Written to be a collection of individual songs rather than working for a universal theme, the album still manages to tie together the themes and topics that are classic to the Mannequin’s songwriting.

The album was written over the course of the past two years, while on tour and on breaks. A few of the songs were even written and conceived during the “Glass Passenger” sessions, but never made the cut. One of these, “Hey Hey Hey (We’re All Gonna Die),” is a powerful and outspoken but realistic message. The lyrics delve into the story of McMahon’s battle with cancer and how he came to terms with it through music. Its powerful chorus and general sound reflect that of songs from “Glass Passenger.”

The strongest song by far on the record is the second-to-last track, “Restless Dream.” This stripped-down ballad features only a guitar track backing McMahon’s heartfelt vocals. The song was originally written for a movie and is about reflecting on past friendships and missed connections. “It’s funny how the words we never say can turn into the only thoughts we know.” McMahon intones a pure simplicity and desperation enough to give anyone goose bumps.

Fundamentally consisting of eleven tracks, the band has also decided to release the album as two bonus editions, one of which contains four bonus tracks from the “People and Things” sessions that didn’t make the album, and the other contains three completely different bonus tracks spanning the band’s career. Both bonus editions will likely please both hardcore fans and new listeners alike.

“People and Things” is a great album filled with good hooks and melodies. It is an album that will be taken to new heights when played live. Jack’s Mannequin, known for their energetic and heartfelt performances, will likely breathe new life into these songs on tour this fall. It’s a great record to put on while on a drive; as a whole, it is very dynamic with plenty of ups and downs. Although “People and Things” definitely isn’t Jack’s Mannequin’s best album, it gracefully brings closure to Andrew McMahon’s cycle of recovery, while dawning new hope for the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5