Andrew McMahon was the front man of one of my favourite bands, Something Corporate, so I was a little miffed when he left to pursue a (solo) passion project called Jack’s Mannequin. Of course, that was before I heard the album and totally fell in love. McMahon is a crack song writer and his feverish piano playing is really exciting to watch live. His songs are energetic and poppy and if they didn’t quite reach the mainstream, they should have.
The successful release of Jack’s Mannequin’s first album, Everything In Transit, came when he was just 22 years old, and in the hospital battling leukemia. This movie is his cancer diary. It’s cheaply shot with home video cameras – truly nothing fancy. But it is very honest, and very grounding to watch a kid who is so full of life hear his new songs on the radio for the first time while also losing his hair and maybe even his hope. It’s sobering. At 22, his doctors are delaying chemo just long enough for him to freeze some sperm because although he’s never even considered whether he wants a family, now he has to prepare for the worst.
Spoiler alert: he survives, by the skin of his teeth, with love from his fans and support from his family and bone marrow from his brave sister. He survived to write a second Jack’s Mannequin album, the lyrics heavy with his hospital philosophy. That album, Glass Passenger, featured heavily on my mp3 player when I was in the hospital going through my own treatment. I think the music got into my veins through the IV drip and I’ve never really been able to shake it. So imagine how miffed I was to learn that McMahon had ants in his pants once again and was disbanding my treasured Jack’s Mannequin.
But now he’s back, not just in documentary form, but with a new album that finally bears his name front and centre, just in time for another round of treatment for me. My favourite song off the album is about his darling daughter, a miracle baby after all her father had been through, a testament to his survival. And if you, or she, want to know a little more about how he made it through the dark days, Dear Jack offers some barrier-free insight.