Life is busy, almost too busy sometimes, ratcheting up in responsibilities and squeezing out the spare time usually used to sit, reflect, read or just veg out. Fortunately, if you’re as much of a music fan as I am, the soundtrack to your goings-on can offer just enough of an emotional balm to keep you going until you catch your next breath (heck, sometimes it’s better than that and propels you even further).
Lately I’ve been into the newest Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness record, Zombies on Broadway, a buoyant and revealing pop-rock record that dropped a few weeks ago. I was a big Something Corporate I don’t think there was a mix CD in my possession without “Konstantine,” “I Kissed A Drunk Girl” or “I Woke Up In A Car” on it. The debut of Jack’s Mannequin thrilled me as much as anyone and I do think that record will hold up as a seminal classic for the early aughts.
But much of the post-JM solo work has come to me in fits and starts, I don’t think there was a release that I dove into from start to finish the way I have Zombies. The self-titled from 2014 has some great moments and I love love love “Cecelia and the Satellite” and “Maps for the Getaway” has become a theme song of sorts, but I came to it late, probably in 2015 or 2016.
Listening to Zombies, I hear a little bit of all that came before, from the stream-of-conscious spoken delivery in “Brooklyn You’re Killing Me” that feel very Leaving Through the Window, the dance beats of “Don’t Speak For Me (True)” from The Pop Underground era, the romantic anthem of “Love and Great Buildings” that has always been a strength of his. Thematically, Zombies wrestles with the hardships of balancing love, relationships, responsibilities and mental health, always with a hint of hope and optimism. McMahon appears to be able to offer a clinic on how to age and stay young at the same time.
It’s an incredibly tight and cohesive 11 tracks, full of McMahon’s sharp if mildly depressed observations. “Dead Man’s Dollar” darkly struggles with balancing responsibilities and personal strength,”Island Radio” is a stylistic take on a last ditch effort of sorts, and slow burn closer “Birthday Song” is call to one’s owns arms. So much of this album speaks to the strength and maturation one goes through in a life with myriad challenges, multiple mistakes and a massive emotional core. It’s one of the more honest, and catchy, records I’ve heard this year, and one I plan on revisiting time and time again.
“Pocket change and subway cars
Our big ideas filled empty bars
You might be from the moon or mars
Either way, I’m never going home
So, let’s hang an anchor from the sun
There’s a million city lights but
You’re number one
You’re the reason I’m still
Up at dawn
Just to see your face
We’ll be going strong
With the vampires, baby
We belong, we belong awake
Swinging from the fire escape”
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Zombies on Broadway