Hes the ethereal voice, songwriting powerhouse and full-contact keyboardist behind Something Corporate, the piano-rock quintet praised for its combination of intelligent lyrics, infectious melodies and killer piano. More recently Andrew McMahon has also offered up an angst-flavored side project on Maverick Records, the highly personal theme album Everything in Transit under the guise of Jacks Mannequin, released in August 2005 to critical acclaim and growing public embrace. Yet even before he could bask in this new artistic achievement, McMahon faced a challenge he never expected, especially at the age of 23.
In mid 2005, after some telltale symptoms, McMahon was diagnosed with leukemia. Six weeks of chemotherapy led to a bout with pneumonia, which nearly killed him, but his recovery soon found strength with the news that his sister was a bone marrow match. After a stem cell transplant (which ironically took place just as his new album hit store shelves) there was another setback, an attack of shingles, which attack the central nervous system. But eventually, good news: the leukemia seemed to be in remission. Its tough to be sick that long, especially when youre young and have a lot to accomplish, and its been a long, painful road back, said McMahon. Luckily, I have a great family and friends who took care of me. I will be forever grateful for their help.
While unable to support Jacks Mannequin with tour dates or interviews, McMahon has watched the album gain speed through word of mouth and critical kudos, including one from his hometown newspaper, the Orange County Register, which called Everything in Transit clearly the best release by a local artist in 2005. Its first single, The Mixed Tape, will soon be featured on the soundtrack for the WB series One Tree Hill. McMahon himself will also make a guest appearance on the show, appropriately with his Jacks Mannequin bandmates in an episode featuring a charity cancer fundraiser (also appropriate since, now that McMahon has recovered, Jacks Mannequin has been playing a few real charity fundraisers locally). A live-action video of The Mixed Tape, initially produced as an animation while McMahon was hospitalized, will be released this spring.
With Something Corporate on break, McMahon united the best of his songs into a concept album exploring his alienating return to the hometown he left to pursue his music, and the dissolution of a long, meaningful relationship because of it. He brought his signature piano and distinctive tenor to the project, with vocals, bass and guitar offered by Something Corporate producer Jim Wirt, a friend and collaborator. McMahon and Wirt produced the album, which also features Bobby (Raw) Anderson on guitar, and Patrick Warren (whos worked with Fiona Apple, Macy Gray and Jon Brion) with organ, strings and arrangements. Mtley Cres Tommy Lee supplied live drums to complement samples by CJ Eiriksson, who also served as the albums engineer.
Inspired by such theme albums as The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Everything in Transit weaves an autobiographical tale reflected in the storybook written into its liner notes. It begins with the laid-back, bohemian California mood of Holiday from Real, with McMahon coming home and feeling like a visitor in his own world. The Mixed Tape offers bursts of punk-flavored riffs along with lyrics such as I read your letter, the one you left when you broke into my house... where are you now?. The albums emotional duality is shown in the hopeful and upbeat Im Ready, followed by the sullen Kill the Messenger.
McMahons tribute to The Beach Boys is best heard on the sad-yet-sunny Miss Delaney, an electronica-flavored pop nugget with a synthesized theremin reminiscent of Good Vibrations. The disco flagellation of Bruised tumbles Into the Airwaves, McMahons otherworldly tenor drawing a fatalistic analogy: I am slipping through, I am slipping into the airwaves / You are slipping through my fingers and into the airwaves. Everything in Transit eases into acceptance with its final triptych of songs: the ballad Rescued, McMahons examination of his place in the world in Made for Each Other, and its denouement You Can Breathe.
McMahon has breathed the distinct smell of success since the 2001 debut of Audioboxer by the alternative-rock band he co-founded out of high school. Subsequent albums (Leaving Through the Window and North) proved the bands growth potential as well as the appeal of McMahon, whom MTV called the good-looking, shaggy-haired, thick-framed-glasses-wearing frontman. This past year, in addition to a more expansive tour schedule, Something Corporate was nominated for Band of the Year at the 2004 College Music Awards.
While Jacks Mannequin and Everything in Transit has given McMahon a chance to broaden his musical landscape and vocalize a difficult period in his life, its certain that his recent experience with leukemia has offered even more songwriting fodder, both temporal and transcendental. Its also certain that his future work, as a solo artist and with Something Corporate, will reflect it.
--- from the official Jack's Mannequin website