The Glass Passenger: a few good splinters
David Jackson
10/5/2008 7:51:48 AM

The bright, summery rock of Jack's Mannequin's debut record Everything In Transit was a pleasant surprise a few years back. Piano-driven hooks, infectious on a pandemic level, played off of morose, wounded lyrics to make the album an unlikely masterpiece, settling into a friendly pop niche that felt refreshingly underused. It's been about three years since that album hit stores, so what can fans look forward to on the new release The Glass Passenger[Sire/WEA]? As painful as it is, we have to say, "not much."

For all the hype and build-up, McMahon has inexplicably disappointed with an album that's a total mixed bag-- and far from a worthy successor to the debut. Passenger seemed a sure bet to build on the huge success of Transit... how did it fall into the trap of sophomore slump?

Dedicated Jack's fans will no doubt balk at this review when they give the album its first spin. The lead-off track, "Crashin¨, is totally brilliant, as layered with catchy melodies and clever lyrics as anything on Transit. The next song, "Spinning¨, seems nearly as good. So what's the problem? Put simply, the songs vary more and more in quality as the album progresses. "The Resolution¨, the album's first single and second to last track, is fantastic--but the following send-off, "Caves¨, is too long and profoundly uninteresting; lacking a convincing hook and dominated by a boring, meandering piano line. "What Gets You Off" and "Suicide Blond¨ are likely to grow on you, but other tracks come across as totally unsalvageable. For instance, how "Hammer and Strings", McMahon's unbearable love letter to an absent girlfriend, made it on to this album is an utter mystery. This is all made more painful by the fact that when the album is good, it's really incredible. It feels like a number of bad songs are dragging down some wonderful gems here, and there's only really an EP's worth of proper material. It's all too easy to see what should have been left out, and we might as well list the tracks worth buying:

* Crashin
* Spinning
* What Gets You Off
* The Resolution
* Swim
* American Love

The rest of the songs are inconsistent --not terrible outright, but lacking that special spark that we've come to expect from the band. If Jack's Mannequin had shortened the album or done some serious rewriting, we might have found The Glass Passenger compelling; but they didn't, and we don't. As a reviewer, it's irritating to see this happen to a good band, but as a fan it's positively heartbreaking. Better luck to McMahon, and to all of us, for the next release: The Glass Passenger has shattered on its arrival.


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