Andrew McMahon is one of those artists that I’ve been casually following from project to project since I was a teenager in the heyday of real emo music (Piebald, Dashboard, you know, that sort of thing) and just haven’t really given up on. He’s a particularly interesting artist to keep an eye on for a variety of reasons; the first and most obvious being the fact that depending on who you talk to he’s know for completely different groups or solo ventures. Those of us who hung on from the beginning might immediately think of Something Corporate, younger fans might have started with Jack’s Mannequin, and those who picked up within the last few years probably know him just as Andrew McMahon… or more specifically by the full name he uses for his records: Andrew McMahon in the Wildnerness.
In spite of having such a diverse past, each phase of McMahon’s career seems to have a distinct sound… which is especially interesting when we reach his latest release, Zombies On Broadway, which seems to distinctly lack his Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness sound.
The album opens in a very Andrew McMahon-sort-of-way, with the “Zombies Intro” of brief ambient city noise that reminds you that yes, you are listening to who you think you are. “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me” is the true opening song, but it sounds so strongly like Jack’s Mannequin to me that it could almost be an outtake from Everything In Transit. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does set the tone for the rest of the album: where the self-titled Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness had an all new sound, Zombies On Broadway carries us right on through a sort of riff-and-rhythm greatest hits of Andrew McMahon’s many signature styles he’s had throughout the years, alternating between the very modern Wilderness Era, Jack’s, and of course: Something Corporate.
“So Close” is a unique track in this sense, it feels like a fusion of Something Corporate and In The Wilderness, while taking on a sound feels a lot at home with indie pop favorites like The Mowglis and The Griswolds, a feel that is echoed in “Don’t Speak For Me (True),” which at least reminds me a little more of his more recent work and stands out as one of my favorite tracks on the record. “Fire Escape” follows it with a uniquely 2008 sound that is incredibly catchy, a song that sort of has been growing on me the more I listen to it.
“Dead Mans Dollar” brings us to another older-sounding track that carries throwbacks to other Andrew McMahon tracks and has some of easiest to relate to lyrics of the entire album; it’s not exactly the best song on the record, but the catchy lyrics make it stand out, especially leading into “Shout Out of a Cannon” which feels like the now-standard dance track for this album, which is great enough on its own but could be great with a remix. “Walking In My Sleep” feels almost slow next to it, but it’s got a very Twin Forks or late Dashboard Confessional feel and is pretty standard fare moving into “Island Radio” and “Love And Great Buildings,” which are all great tracks that are overshadowed slightly by Andrew McMahon’s repeated ability to create songs that blend together and fail to stand out when listened to in order.
Fortunately for the second half of the album, “Birthday Song” is an absolutely stand out number that reminds me heavily of songs like “Me And The Moon” from back in the Something Corporate days. While more recent Andrew McMahon songs can sometimes sound overproduced, it’s almost refreshing to hear that he can still do these moving piano ballads that we just want to scream-cry along with at the first chance we get. It leads us to an absolutely beautiful “Amazing Grace” outro that seems to, combined with the finale track, beg our forgiveness for any of the album’s misgivings and encourage us to start back at the beginning and listen to it all over again.
All told, I did enjoy this album, it just took a little while to grow on me and I’m not sure I’ll love it as much as I love some of Andrew McMahon’s other “classics;” from the self titled Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, to the memorable Everything In Transit or Something Corporate’s North. Maybe I just need to listen to it a thousand more times, just to be sure.
Have a favorite track from the album? Did you love the album or hate it? Be sure to let us know in the comments!