Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Zombies on Broadway


4.2
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
February 11th, 2017 | 40 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: His best since Everything In Transit.

It’s been a while since Andrew McMahon has sounded totally revitalized. Diagnosed with leukemia on the same day that he finished recording Jack’s Mannequin’s smash debut Everything In Transit, he was eventually able to make a full recovery courtesy of a stem cell transplant from his sister. His musical career took some winding turns along the way, from the cancer-themed The Glass Passenger to his latest musical venture, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. It wasn’t always a pretty ride, as People and Things offered very little memorable material while the eponymous Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness ran out of steam quickly despite possessing a handful of shimmering melodic highlights (most notably “Cecilia and the Satellite”). Enter Zombies on Broadway, recorded in New York City where McMahon initially received that dreadful diagnosis over a decade ago. It’s an album full of introspection, but more importantly it is also the solution to the aforementioned period of stagnation. Zombies is the first album since Everything In Transit that simply explodes with life and energy; whether it’s the enormous pop hooks, the dynamically interwoven verses, or the optimistic lyrics. Even though it is formulaic in premise, it’s a damn good pop record that deservedly places Andrew McMahon’s musical career back in the spotlight while allowing his battles with cancer – or the Zombies on Broadway – to fade quietly into the rearview mirror.

Ironically, it took McMahon returning to the scene of one of the most difficult moments of his life for him to finally turn the corner. There’s no way of knowing exactly what compelled him to do this, but regardless, Zombies is the most fulfilling and vital music he has created in a very long time. From the very moment that ‘Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me’ sets in, it’s already apparent. “Okay, alright, just let me think” he spews rather urgently, as if he’s on the precipice of the most important decision of his life, and it’s almost reminiscent of his spiel during Everything In Transit’s ‘I’m Ready.’ It quickly launches into a chorus so huge that it dwarfs old favorites like ‘Dark Blue’ and ‘Holiday From Real’, featuring an irresistible interchange between the song’s title and sugary la la la’s set to a melody that sounds like it was meant for jam-packed stadiums. It’s an absolutely gleeful way to begin the record, but unlike what ‘Cecilia and the Satellite’ did for Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness’ debut, it’s far from the lone highlight. ‘Don’t Speak for Me’ marks one of Andrew’s most moving songs since ‘Swim’, with passages like “honestly, every day I feel a little bit stronger than I was” and “don't wanna play those songs again, until I've found someone to play them for.” It sets up for a knockout punch of a chorus, and even though it doesn’t quite deliver to the fullest extent, the verses alone are memorable enough to carry the track as one of the album’s very best. It actually seems to be a common theme across Zombies on Broadway that the verses overpower the choruses, which generally tend to be overdubbed vocally and in certain cases also overproduced. At the same time though, this is a pop album through and through; so findings like this should not be particularly surprising. Most dedicated fans are already well-versed on ‘Fire Escape’ – the album’s lead single – and it’s just another incredibly well-crafted song with a melody that sticks like gum, strategically placed in the middle of the tracklist to help ensure that Zombies never runs low on adrenaline. Combined, these generally mark the highlights and most likely singles, although just about every track here (excluding the thirty second intro) is a worthy entry capable of standing on its own.

Although Zombies features a plethora of sugary sweet verses ripe for the picking, the most rewarding moments come when Andrew McMahon wears his emotions on his sleeves – particularly when it comes to the trials of maturing and balancing musical stardom with family life. Having a daughter seems to have really changed Andrew’s outlook on life, which is both understandable and reflected lyrically throughout the record. It’s most obvious on ‘Dead Man’s Dollar’, in which he laments the challenges of leaving his wife and daughter alone while on the road: “I know this isn't easy, you got that baby sleeping all by yourself / feels like I'm always leaving / I swear to God, one day I'll be there to help.” The chorus is also a resounding repetition of “I want to make a life for you”, a line most likely dedicated to the future of his daughter, and a note that he ends with “I want to make a life, but I want to live there too.” The closing track ‘Birthday Song’ is another beautiful tribute, in which McMahon counts his blessings while seemingly drawing regret from his continued absence at home. Lines like “you married a good girl / she gave you this beautiful yellow-haired daughter” and “you can play all the notes, you can write all the words / you headlined in all the big cities / but when the spotlights are off and the crowds have gone home / …you could be going home too” are particularly moving, and even go as far as to open up questions about whether or not McMahon is considering hanging up the mic. It’s pure speculation of course, but the regret in these songs is so tangible that it seems to beckon the possibility. It certainly doesn’t do anything to extinguish these thoughts when he forlornly sings passages like “it's not your birthday…so blow out your candles, it's better than letting them burn out” and “I can't spend another night alone / I tried swimming but I can't get home…last transmission from the island radio.” At best, he just has a horrible case of homesickness, but regardless of what the future holds for Andrew McMahon’s musical career, his use of Zombies on Broadway as a cathartic vessel for dealing with these feelings of conflict is one of the best things that happened to the album’s sense of depth and emotional relevancy.

One could be forgiven for approaching Zombies on Broadway with slightly deflated expectations…I know I did. It would have been reasonable to assume that McMahon’s heyday ended with the seagulls and crashing waves of Everything In Transit, and that Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness would never amount to much more than a failed attempt to recapture the initial promise of Jack’s Mannequin, or even the former glory of Something Corporate. Thankfully Zombies proves all of that wrong, as McMahon shows that he still has as firm of a grasp as ever on his unique brand of piano pop-rock, or whatever you’d want to classify it as. This album – while straightforward from a songwriting perspective – is just a collection of powerhouse pop tunes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that when it’s executed to perfection like it is here. From his early success as a teen rock star in Something Corporate, throughout the tribulations of dealing with cancer, through Jack’s Mannequin, and all the way up to his present musical project and life as a father, Andrew McMahon has proven that he is one of the most resilient songwriters of our time. Or, as he coins it in ‘Love and Great Buildings’: “through the great depressions, yeah, the best things are designed to stand the test of time.”



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user ratings (32)
Chart.
3.1
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
February 11th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

This won't average out quite as high as I scored it, but this my favorite McMahon album that's not EIT.

Digging: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness - Zombies on Broadway

FreddieDelaney31
February 11th 2017


2465 Comments


Love EiT to pieces and haven't listened to anything else in full out of boredom, very excited to give this a listen I hope yr right

Digging: OutKast - ATLiens

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2017


30257 Comments


is this the guy from that one part of one tree hill where that song plays and omg peyton sawyer

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
February 11th 2017


30257 Comments


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdW48xSbb9s

if this has one tree hill vibes i might have to check it out

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 11th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

Don't expect to like this as much as EiT, but expect it to be better than P&T and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness' self titled. Possibly also better than Glass Passenger.



@acad didn't check the video but I'm sure you're right and you'll probably dig this too

Mort.
February 12th 2017


12384 Comments


fucking horrible album cover

Digging: Kamakaze & Massappeals - Royal Blud

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 12th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

Agreed

minty901
February 12th 2017


3326 Comments


is this anything like something corporates north?

Beauers
February 12th 2017


371 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I would say that this is basically nothing like anything else he has done before, it's not a million miles from the debut 'solo' album but much more pop for want of a better word.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2017


22174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

He did something similar with the pop underground EP too. Have mixed feelings about this so far but it could grow. I'm just glad to see him get some love, seeing Jack's Mannequin live is still the best concert I've ever seen



You see the dear Jack movie Sowing? It's about his fight with Leukemia

Digging: Max Richter - Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 12th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

I'm not totally shocked that you have mixed feelings, this is way more of a straight up pop/pop rock album than his usual piano pop-punk fare. I think this is incredible though, the melodies are just so strong and his conviction and delivery is back. I felt like the last two albums he did were a little bit phoned in.



Never saw the movie but I'll check it out. Would probably give even greater context to a lot of his lyrics.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 12th 2017


22174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's definitely catchy, can't say it's not. I need to spend more time with it and see if it grows. It does seem like it's lacking some of his usual piano work though :/



as for the movie it probably won't tell you anything you don't already know but it's crazy seeing someone at that age nailed to a hospital bed!

runaways
February 12th 2017


310 Comments


album cover is terrible and that's honestly the reason why I wasn't hyped for this, other than the fact that the first album was just okay cheese 'n' corn indie pop

but might have to check this out

probably not though

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 12th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

People are so glum about this and I'm so excited : (

runaways
February 12th 2017


310 Comments


high dive is still two and a half jams though so

Sinternet
February 12th 2017


11841 Comments


heard a couple of tracks off this they were decent

Digging: Beat Connection - The Palace Garden

Green Baron
February 12th 2017


22968 Comments


did not like Fire Escape at all.

Digging: The Menzingers - After the Party

Point1
February 12th 2017


241 Comments


Huge EiT fan and I hated every single off this. Found the lyrics really cringey and the songwriting was kinda weird and par for the course inspirational bubblegum. Hope the album itself is different.

But again I thought Cecilia and the Satellite was cloying and boring too so maybe his new stuff just isn't for me.

3waycrash
February 13th 2017


85 Comments


I'd say this is a very solid pop album to add to his catalogue. I am a little biased though since I've always been a fan of his from Something Corporate to Jack's Mannequin and now with this new project. It is a bit more straightforward rather than the piano pop stuff he does so I could see how it might not be for everyone.

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 13th 2017


22770 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

This actually probably tied with The Glass Passenger for me, but "His best since The Glass Passenger" doesn't have the same ring to long time McMahon fans



People will either love or hate this because it's big time pop, which is already evidenced by the scattered 1.5's and 4's





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