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Rediscover:

Something Corporate

Leaving Through the Window

2002

Rediscover is a series of reviews highlighting past releases that have flown under the radar and now deserve a second look.

To a majority of music listeners, “emo” music is synonymous with whining. There only seems to be so much the ear and heart can withstand before wanting to gut yourself with a screwdriver, Inland Empire-style. I, myself am even guilty of hitting my breaking point. Surprisingly, it was at an age where Motion City Soundtrack’s I Am the Movie spoke directly to my heart and soul. I vividly remember walking through a suburban Maryland record store pontificating out loud to myself of Blink-182’s (at the time) recent breakup, “…I mean, they’re 30. They’ve gotta be tired of crying about girls who won’t go to the movies with them.” Records like the aforementioned Blink’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon and Socratic’s Lunch for the Sky are truly well-performed, clever, riff-laden triumphs in their own respective rights. Sadly, they are plagued by their lack of lasting power. Don’t get me wrong, replay value is key and this reviewer could appreciate “The Rock Show” or “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” time and time again deep into his thirties without a shirk. But what keeps these “present-day” classics” from staying relevant only in the present?

The now-defunct Something Corporate was Andrew McMahon’s first go at pop-punk stardom, which he moderately achieved with the band. The group released three full-length EPs, even though the first was halfway re-recorded for their sophomore release. Corporate gained a moderate fan base before going on a hiatus in 2004 that seemingly never ended. Too bad for fans of their nearly-progressive brand of emo/pop-punk that (often) exchanged whining for heartfelt stories of legitimate feelings and sweeping metaphors extending beyond girls and… well, girls.

Leaving Through the Window found its way recently found its way onto my iPod during a recent re-organizational period as I only have 16 gigs to play with and I decided to play it as a “I have got to find a way to sleep through this four-hour bus ride” album. My plan failed (to positive effect) as I wound up awake for the entire ride. The record opens with the beautifully-crafted “I Want to Save You,” which is your average pop-punk song on the outside: dopey lyrics about a girl stuck in a relationship that the singer just finds disgusting, hence the title. Did I mention they’re having a teenage affair? Oooh, intrigue! Yes, the story isn’t really one we haven’t heard before, but we hadn’t heard on an early-2000s “emo” album is that waiting. The song trickles in slowly with a drum and a soft piano. McMahon’s subdued-but-not-whispery voice then chimes in with sweet imagery before the song drives it home with guitars, violins and a strong, loud drive that feels unhammered and careful.

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Next is the one of the album’s three singles “Punk Rock Princess,” which is catchy enough, but sells the artistic integrity of the album as a whole short. (“You could be my punk rock princess/ I would be your garage band king/ You could tell me why you just don’t fit in/ And how you’re gonna be somethin’“) Lyrics like that are almost puke-worthy to a man in his twenties, but McMahon’s ability to compose irresistible melodies along with stirring arrangements complete with instruments that don’t usually get play in the My Chemical Romance crowd ultimately drown out those radio-ready dilutions that continue to haunt bands like this. After introspectively banging your head for the first four tracks, we’re treated to what Something Corporate really has to offer. “The Astronaut” is a true escape. Images of watching stars and floating away in space, paired with the string-heavy arrangement give this song propulsion like you’re on a ride, like you may float away with the song. Even though he sings of not having quite enough in his actual life to get by, there is an underlying fullness that makes the track almost ironic in its outcries. It takes balls to have such faith in your music.

Leaving Through the Window is tracked in such a way that a road trip is probably the best way to enjoy it as it’s chock full of tales that have been explored before in this genre. This time around, they actually feel relatable, like having a buddy in the passenger seat for you to relay stories with. Songs like “Hurricane”, “Straw Dog” and “Cavanaugh Park” feel like high-concept reminiscences, but in no way pretentious or cornball like some of their predecessors on the album. Most of the stories that occupy the middle section of the album strike up memories of times like high school or college, but without using specifics which kill a lot of other songs that make the same emotional attempts. The fresh musical arrangements are welcome changes to the usual hammered chords and simple riffs and lines, bringing these songs to new, intriguing heights above the rest in the crying game that most times is “emo” music.

McMahon has since moved on to forming the piano-driven Jack’s Mannequin, beating leukemia and finding further success with the band that started out as a side project. Sadly though, the sound that Jack’s Mannequin has settled into doesn’t really feel like one of truth. Manhood kicked in and showed him how to make a buck, but those teens and twenties of his showed us what a good pop-punk record sounds like.

by Cameron Mason
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