Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness


3.0
good

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 14th, 2014 | 24 replies


Release Date: 10/14/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A tale of two halves.

When I read the title “Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness”, I picture McMahon sitting by a piano and laughing to himself. Worse puns have been made, but it just seems that the former Jack’s Mannequin frontman who was the former Something Corporate frontman could have finally settled for just using his actual name. It would have been fitting too, considering that Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is the probably the most “Andrew McMahon” album that Andrew McMahon has ever made. If it seems like it starts to get annoying to say after a while, that’s because it does. Thankfully, the debut album for his newest project is far less grating. Citing an inability to move on from cancer and recovery-related topics, McMahon decided that it was time to wipe the slate clean. While his use of Jack’s Mannequin as a coping device is completely understandable given the circumstances, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness puts the kick back in his step that has been sorely missing since Everything In Transit hit shelves all the way back in 2005.

A lot of the aspects that bogged down Jack’s Mannequin’s final record, People and Things, appear to have been rectified. There’s plenty of songs on Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness that are bursting at the seams with energetic melodies, enormous hooks, and optimistic lyrical topics. There’s a sense of rejuvenation, and it shows in everything from the jubilant piano notes to McMahon’s excited vocal delivery. “Cecilia and the Satellite” embodies all of these traits – consisting of overdubbed vocals, whoa oh oh’s that actually fit the song well, and an unforgettable chorus that is surrounded by incredibly catchy verses. It’s everything that fans have been screaming for since “Dark Blue”, and it definitely lands among the best songs of his career. One of the traits that has always set Andrew McMahon apart as a musician is his ability to connect with listeners on an emotional level, and he doesn’t disappoint in that department either. The aforementioned track is an ode to his newborn daughter, and it features an impassioned promise of protection: “Of all the things my eyes have seen the best by far is you. If I could fly then I would know what life looks like from up above and down below…I’d keep you safe, I’d keep you dry – don’t be afraid Cecilia I’m the satellite and you’re the sky.” Between the insanely catchy vocals, the flawless piano integration, and the meaningful depth of the lyrics, it’s basically the perfect pop song. While “Canyon Moon”, “High Dive”, and “Black and White Movies” all come close in some way, no song is quite as aesthetically pleasing as “Cecilia and the Satellite.”

After the first three tracks or so, most listeners will be riding an emotional high. The liveliness and vigor of Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is evident immediately, and it is almost impossible not to get drawn in to its brand of feel-good pop. Had McMahon kept up his level of enthusiasm for the duration record’s back half, we might be hailing it as Everything In Transit’s equal. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Just as quickly as it explodes onto the scene, it fades into a rather homogenous blob of midtempo borderline balladry that causes the listener to go from cloud nine to feeling like the only sober person at a party full of gleefully drunk friends. That isn’t to say that all of the songs in the second half of the album are bad, it’s just that the majority of them aren’t very interesting. Save for “Black and White Movies” and “Halls”, the back half feels palpably devoid of anything resembling energy – and it extends well beyond the notions of balance and tempo. McMahon sounds bored on “See Her On The Weekend”, and the lyrics he penned for the song are flat out atrocious: “My girl is at the beach and I’ll see her on the weekend, I’ll see her on the weekend, I’ll see her on the weekend. I’ll see her at the end of the week.” Really, Andrew" Can somebody please tell me when he’ll see her again" That kind of monotony exists again on “Driving Through a Dream”, which for all intents and purposes is just a boring, unmemorable pop song. “Rainy Girl” has potential as a stand-alone track, with swelling strings and gorgeous vocals that sound more and more emotional as the song progresses. In the hazy sheath of the middling tracks surrounding it, though, one might not even notice. It’s a shame really, because with better rhythmic balance, a lot of these tracks could have at least been exposed in a more enjoyable light. But alas, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness proves to be only a partial success – soaring high at first, but nose-diving quickly in what can only be described as a front-loaded affair.

As a tale of two halves, Andrew McMahon shows us that while he still has what it takes to craft brilliant pop tunes, he is also still capable of succumbing to the same old pitfalls. Despite being frustratingly inconsistent though, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is still a step in the right direction. While a noticeable portion of The Glass Passenger and essentially all of People and Things suffered from flat songwriting, we now (at times, anyway) hear McMahon sounding as eager and alive as ever. If he can keep that momentum going for an entire album, then we’ll all be in for a pleasant surprise some time in the near future. Until then, however, the potential of McMahon’s “clean slate” remains only partially recognized.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
October 14th 2014


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album contains some of his best work, but so much of it is just unremarkable/borderline filler. Feedback is welcome.

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JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
October 14th 2014


6676 Comments


nice, straightforward review. good work as per

(edit: fixed)

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 14th 2014


23858 Comments


excellent review sowing! I do agree that the second half of the album isn't quite as good as the first, but I thought 'Maps for the Getaway' was one hell of a closer.

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SowingSeason
Moderator
October 14th 2014


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I agree that's a little stupidly worded Johnny, thanks for pointing it out. I'll fix it when I'm at my computer.



Thanks Atari, but I found the closer to be pretty unremarkable. If anything, Rainy Girl is the second half standout to me.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 14th 2014


23858 Comments


man i love it haha. I really dig the '80s dance vibe on that track
and the lyrics really resonate with me. Canyon Moon and All our Lives are definitely favorites as well

ExplosiveOranges
October 14th 2014


4408 Comments


"As a tale two halves,"

*of two halves, but besides that, fantastic review as always. This looks like it could actually be good, and Atari likes it.



toxin.
October 15th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah I liked most of the stuff here but I did think 'See Her On the Weekend' was kind of bad. I'll wait until I listen to the whole thing (probably this weekend) to give an actual judgment though

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 15th 2014


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks EO, made the fix. And toxin, I agree it's probably the worst song on the record.

toxin.
October 15th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That's a relief to hear. I'm not as high as you on 'Cecilia and the Satellite' so I was worried that I wouldn't like this much at all. But if that's the worst song the album, then there are hopefully still some songs that are at least on the level of 'Synesthesia,' if not the big Everything in Transit hits

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2014


23858 Comments


was wondering when you'd pop up in this thread toxin. Can't believe you haven't heard the whole thing yet!

toxin.
October 16th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Me neither, but I've been out of my room from 11 AM until 8-11 PM the last three days, and I was busy over the weekend since I went home (for the Anberlin farewell tour and then had other stuff to do).



Will jam over the weekend since it looks like I'll actually have time! Or tomorrow, if I finish my work and don't make plans.



Also the lack of interest in Andrew McMahon's stuff on this site overall is disappointing. Like 5-6 users total actually care about his stuff :l

FalconFalcone
October 17th 2014


141 Comments


I love this new album and everything else that he has done! I think he is a great writer and musician. Everything from Something Corporate to Jack's Mannequin to this!

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 17th 2014


23858 Comments


"the lack of interest in Andrew McMahon's stuff on this site overall is disappointing. Like 5-6 users total actually care about his stuff :l" [2]

you'd think he'd have a stronger following by now, but maybe it's just this site



toxin.
October 17th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think the overlap between the type of people in his fanbase and the type of people on this site is pretty small. Also yeah he doesn't have a huge fanbase; seems most of his fans are people who've loved his stuff since Something Corporate.



But the people at my university reacted to him pretty well, and it seemed everyone was singing along to 'Dark Blue.' Like he had a way bigger response than like Anberlin would have, even though the latter is way more discussed on this site and probably has more fans (e.g. on FB). So I don't really know

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 18th 2014


28384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I agree with toxin about the small overlap. It's all about the demographics of the site vs reality.

Nikkolae
October 18th 2014


5397 Comments


Cecilia and the Satellite is pretty nice, i didnt knew he had already released this so im pretty much on it, man i miss jack's mannequin

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NorwichScene
October 19th 2014


2698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another name change.. album is good as expected

DirEnRefused
October 24th 2014


3471 Comments


i think vince mcmahon in the wilderness would be far more interesting.

http://i.imgur.com/biDFHU0.gif

toxin.
October 25th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

finally listening to this, only on the 3rd track so they're all familiar so far. 'high dive' is pretty great though, better than i remember!

toxin.
October 25th 2014


12924 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All Our Lives' verses sounds so much like another pop song but I can't put my finger on it. But the chorus is really fun



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