Reviews

Jack’s Mannequin + Scars on 45
: 12 November 2011 - Pomona, CA

Melissa Bobbitt

It’s common for artists to become more jaded as they age, but Andrew McMahon walks in the light -- and on top of his instrument -- these days.

Scars on 45


Jack’s Mannequin + Scars on 45


City: Pomona, CA
Venue: Fox Theater

Date: 2011-11-12


Maybe they weren’t looking for one, but Generation Y has found its heir apparent to Billy Joel in Jack’s Mannequin’s Andrew McMahon. Like the Piano Man before him, this 29-year-old is as much a storyteller as he is a mere musician. From the moment he made a name for himself in the emo/punk-pop scene back in 2002 with his first band, Something Corporate, McMahon has had a knack for spinning yarns that transcended the puppy-love lyrics of most men at a tender age.

He’s sung of circuses and childhood playgrounds in which "there was never any place for someone like me to be truly happy." With Jack’s Mannequin’s debut in 2005, the pop opus Everything in Transit (Maverick), he was telling tales of palpable suburban boredom. He was almost too good at this sort of narrative – though the tunes were hummable and seemingly perky, there was a weighted darkness behind them.

"I’m on the verge, I’m on the verge," he lamented in "I’m Ready", a standout track on that album. Ready for what: adulthood? A break from the doldrums of a life on tour? To stop being exalted as a pin-up front man?

Six years and two records later, he’s changed his perspective. Veiled disdain for all that he was becoming has matured into a reverie for life. Lyrical proclamations such as "I’m alive" litter his oeuvre now (See 2008’s The Glass Passenger for prime evidence of this shift). And those words, culled from the radio-ready "The Resolution", felt ever more poignant in concert at the Fox Theater in Pomona. When Andrew McMahon declares, "I’m alive," he means it with every ounce of his being.

Because he almost wasn’t.

At 23, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Figuratively surviving one’s early 20s is difficult enough, but he battled something so traumatic, he was forever changed - for the better. Once his surgery proved successful, McMahon emerged as a young phoenix. The flames of negativity were below him.

Though a staple of his stage show since the Something Corporate days, when he now climbs atop his piano and sails into the pit of adoring fans, it feels symbolic. Some frisky girls still paw at his chest as though he were Justin Bieber, but mostly the audience welcomes this sage narrator like a homeward-bound soldier deserving of a ticker-tape parade.

They gathered to hear his tales from the front lines of his own personal war. Certainly, the other Jack’s members – especially the blazing guitarist, Bobby "Raw" Anderson – held their own, but it’s McMahon’s project. He exemplified such when it was just him and the piano onstage. The power ballad "Swim" was transformed into a haunting confessional that brought even a few hoodie-wearing hard-nosed men in the crowd to cry. And "No Man Is An Island", a b-side from JM’s latest, People and Things (Sire), might be the most beautiful love song released in 2011. Originally dedicated to Anderson and his new bride, McMahon adapted it at this concert for his own loyal wife, Kelly.

The whole gig was very much a love-fest. Supporting act Scars on 45 mentioned the musicians’ significant others numerous times, and singer Danny Bemrose informed the Fox that guitarist Matt Baxter and bassist Stuart Nichols were caught spooning in a San Francisco hotel after a night of imbibing.

This English outfit’s sound was enrapturing: Think the immensity of Arcade Fire mixed with the sentimentality of Stars, and you’ve got Scars on 45. Theirs was an extremely complementary performance to the heart-on-the-sleeve exuberance of Jack’s Mannequin.

It’s common for artists to become more jaded as they age, but Andrew McMahon walks in the light – and on top of his instrument – these days. Either way, he’s come out on top of tribulation, and his followers are there wholeheartedly to cheer him on.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.