Monday, 29 October 2012

My guilty pleasure – Jack’s Mannequin

A cursory glance at my LastFM and you might think I’m a miserable sod – Morrissey, Bright Eyes, Placebo, Hole – but generally I don’t think you’d call me embarrassing. Yet one name crops up in 7th place on my ‘most listened to’ chart, sandwiched in between the serious singer/songwritery talents of Patrick Wolf and Emmy the Great – and it’s Jack’s Mannequin.
Where do we start? It’s probably one of the most embarrassing band names in history; off the top of my head, I can’t think of a worse one, can you? I used to actively delete the songs from my history, I was so embarrassed, but now I’m out of the closet and proud. Jack’s Mannequin have given me so much silly, brainless singalong fun. Just don’t ask me to say the words ‘Jack’s Mannequin’ aloud.  
So who are Jack’s Mannequin, and how did I get into them? LastFM is guilty again, as I was listening to the ‘similar to Bright Eyes’ radio, and up came ‘Last Straw’ by… well, you guessed it. It has some of the stupidest lyrics in history, for example, ‘I heard that you went out last night, and you looked beautiful just like a bat beneath the moonlight/ I stayed home and took a Vicodin… sometimes it's all that I can do when I think about the president. How did he become the president?’ Yet it is also the catchiest song I’ve ever heard. Further investigation into Jack’s work (OK, he’s not really called Jack) saw a recurring theme: he’s OBSESSED with jumpers. In Last Straw he laments: ‘And you never write me letters and you never sent my sweaters, so I could stay warm when I was without you’. For some reason this made me laugh, someone moaning about a jumper in a song, it’s almost Morrissey-esque. But it doesn’t end there. In ‘Holiday from Real’ he’s also going on about his winter clothes: ‘Hey Madeline, you sure look fine, you wore my favourite sweater, being poor was never better’. Is it the same sweater? Who knows if he even got it back from last time? We need to know! 
In case you thought this was the end of the knitwear-based madness, in the song ‘In Slow Motion’ the sweater makes another appearance, in another of my favourite bits of verse from him: ‘My life in Techinicolor, can you check the shutters, someone get my mother on the phone – she oughta know what i'm up to. Out here in Hollywood you don't need a sweater cause the sun feels better… in slow motion.’ So after all this moaning about his sweater, suddenly he doesn’t even need it anymore! I love the idea of him calling his mother to tell her what he’s up to, ‘Yeah, hi Mom, can you send me a sweater? No, not that one.’ ‘What you up to, son?’ ‘Just building a rock and roll career around moaning about jumpers.’ ‘Sweet’.
Yet despite lyrics that make me both cringe and laugh every time I hear them (or maybe because of?) I almost NEVER skip a Jack’s Mannequin song on my iPod, hence him coming in top seven. I just can’t stop myself listening.
So who is Jack’s Mannequin? Well, he’s some dude who was in some 90s band called Something Corporate. I think their biggest hit was ‘Punk Rock Princess’ which I vaguely remember from back in the day, and Jack’s Mannequin is his more ‘serious’ side (lol). I have tried to listen to Something Corporate and it’s a bit like Blink 182, but there are two or three catchy ones. I think Jack’s Mannequin is enough embarrassment, to be honest, let’s not start getting into Panic at the Disco or something.
Also, I think he survived cancer, and he plays a piano, so it’s all a serious business. I can’t even remember what his name is. Andrew? I mean, who cares? He’s not going to be one of my idols. He’s more like some comfy trash TV: if Bright Eyes is Breaking Bad, Jack’s Mannequin is America’s Next Top Model. Both have their place. 
I also like the way all the songs are set in California and are about going to the beach, smoking drugs, calling his mum (again), whining down the phone to an ex, and it being a bit hot. It’s kind of like a rom-com set to music, but a good one. He even does a talky rap bit in one song, moaning about having to wash his t-shirt: ‘I put on the same clothes I wore yesterday. When did society decide that we had to change and wash a t-shirt after every individual use, if it's not dirty, I'm gonna wear it.’ He’s not going to get a Daz commercial with that attitude, is he?
So my favourite of his recent lyrics is from his new album, in a song called ’Out of it’ (you can probably guess what that’s about). Lyrics are as follows: ‘So we pull up in the garage, the clicker's fucking broken. I say we drive 'til dawn, then push the car into the ocean.’ I love it! Tell me that’s not a rational response to the ‘clicker’ being broken. Don’t park on the pavement, or in the garden, drive the car right into the fucking ocean. AMAZING. It makes me beam with joy every time I hear it. I want to live in this world. I want to be Miss California and have him 'soak my hair in beach.' In that song he claims, not at all sinisterly, 'When they can't find you I'm sure I'll be the one they blame, but they can't prove anything.'
Anyway, even my boyfriend admits the songs are hopelessly catchy. I defy you not to listen to one of his albums and be singing along within a week. I would actually really love to go and see them play live, as I'm sure it would be a real feel-good experience... I just don't think I could find anyone to go with me! 
Look, I’m not saying you have to get into it. I’m just saying, I’m into it. And that’s that. And I’m NOT ASHAMED ANYMORE. I’m out! 

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