Andrew McMahon made his exit from Something Corporate in 2004 and launched Jack's Mannequin the following year, funneling his taste for sun-kissed power pop and piano-fueled ballads into Everything in Transit. The album was a strong, cohesive effort from a songwriter who previously sailed beneath many critics' radars, but McMahon's success provided little relief from his plummeting health. He was diagnosed with leukemia two months before the album's release, and a series of chemotherapy treatments prevented him from supporting Everything in Transit with a proper tour.
Three years later, McMahon (now cancer-free) returns with his second album. Like Something Corporate's own sophomore effort, The Glass Passenger captures McMahon during a darker period -- understandably so, given his recent history -- and the introspective tone sometimes pales in comparison to the sun-streaked songs that graced Everything in Transit and Something Corporate's debut, Leaving Through the Back Window. There's pain here -- morphine drips, decreased sex drives, and the like -- and McMahon tackles those difficult subjects bluntly and tactfully. "What Gets You Off" deals with the recovery of his libido, even if the song sounds somewhat flaccid until the chorus' arrival, while "Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)" is a vintage, waltzing ballad that serves as a pledge to McMahon's returning fans. "To the sleepless, this is my reply," he sings, "I will write you a reply." From the woozy, theatrical elegance of "Caves" to the orchestrated "Annie Use Your Telescope," ballads account for a significant portion of The Glass Passenger, yet some of the album's best moments still occur during the faster songs. "Spinning" is a surging pop
ock gem, simple enough to become the most instantly recognizable song on the disc, while "American Love" and "Bloodshot" are flecked with buzzing synths and other new wave flourishes. The Glass Passenger might not bare the same pop hooks as Everything in Transit, but it does stay afloat under the weight of McMahon's past, which bodes well for the songwriter's future albums. [A CD/DVD version was also released.]