Andrew McMahon ‘The Pop Underground’ – Album Review
Andrew McMahon’s ‘The Pop Underground' may be the singer-songwriter's first effort under his own name, but it’s certainly not his first contribution to the indie-pop and piano-rock scenes. The four-song EP comes less than a year after the former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin frontman retired the latter moniker. In interviews, McMahon has explained that Jack’s Mannequin was a means to create something new following Something Corporate’s hiatus, but the name soon became associated with his own battle with cancer. With ‘The Pop Underground,’ he's forging a new path.
‘Underground’ offers four brand-new tracks and two additional songs on the 7-inch, including an alternate version of ‘Synesthesia’ and a cover of America's 1974 song ‘Sister Golden Hair.' Loyal fans will find the EP a pleasant addition to McMahon’s catalog -- not a far cry from where Jack’s left off, yet a clear progression in the singer’s already well-established indie-pop/piano rock explorations.
‘Synesthesia’ opens the EP, and rightfully so. It’s a call for listeners to stay tuned for the next three songs, and it works. The song’s upbeat sound matches the vigor of the message. The lyrics reflect on a relatively quiet career under the radar, and while he's never achieved Top 40 success or nabbed a Grammy, McMahon finds value in his accomplishments. According to the singer, this is the concept that also inspired the EPs title. If you’re still not convinced, you have to at least give McMahon credit for making “synesthesia” practically roll off the tongue, an achievement in itself.
Unfortunately, the next three tracks don’t strike gold in the same way ‘Synesthesia’ does. While the hooks for ‘Catching Cold’ and ‘Learn to Dance’ are incredibly infectious, the synth and auto-tuning act as crutches. McMahon doesn’t need the help, and while the effects complement ‘Synesthesia,’ they are distraction for the rest of the EP.
Ultimately, ‘The Pop Underground’ is a story of prevailing, of “learning to dance in a world where there’s no tomorrow.” This is undoubtedly something McMahon has done again and again throughout his career, and it has informed his songwriting, especially from Jack's Mannequin onward. The result is a discography filled with uplifting songs cherished by fans. With that in his arsenal, McMahon the solo artist has a bright future.