Features, Friday Night Dinner Discussions

Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit: A Discussion

One fateful evening in 2012, kismet pulled Reina and Gauraa into a porch conversation about Bishop Allen. They realized, despite having grown up 8,657 miles apart, they had listened to the same records, subscribed to the same podcasts and shared the same pretensions. Separated by distance again, the two have decided to pull all the stops necessary to preserve their culture of staying in and over-analyzing music. In this BRAND NEW COLUMN, Reina and Gauraa cancel their Friday night plans to discuss the records that brought them together.

fridaynightdinners

Gauraa: So I politely declined an invitation to an avant-garde art exhibition about “Anxiety” tonight. That’s Anxiety with a capital A. It’s probably worth mentioning that I met the artists last night and they were prepping for the show in matching Lamb of God t-shirts. Anyway, which fascinating Friday night plan did you cancel to stay in and discuss Jack’s Mannequin with me tonight?

Reina: I said no to a night of spending money on food that is only kind of good and ONE drink because I always have to drive myself home because I live in the middle of nowhere in the sleepiest town (think Stars Hollow but with a 7PM curfew).

Gauraa: So, why this record?

Reina: On the first day of 7th grade, a girl in my class told us about a “romantic summer fling” she had with a boy named Zak at a sleepaway camp. By “summer fling” I mean they hung out a lot and held hands and maybe kissed like once because they were 12 (get ur mind out of the gutter!) Anyway, despite the romantic summer she had, I guess she never thought to ask Zak for his last name, so she was destined to wander about life, heartbroken at their missed chance. She told us they would sit by the lake and listen to his iPod and he played her his favorite song, “The Mixed Tape” by Jack’s Mannequin. She would listen to “The Mixed Tape” when she thought of him and wonder where he was. That romantic notion always stuck with me, and honestly, all this is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve spent a lot of time feeling hopelessly alone, and throughout it all, Everything In Transit was playing softly in the background. Everything IS in transit (especially my package that I ordered like 2 weeks ago!), so what album could be more perfect than this to kick off what I hope will be our best collaboration yet.

Gauraa: I couldn’t agree more. I found Everything In Transit around the same age. As you know, lyrics have always been really, really important to me–like, they are the emotional component of a song. Obviously my conception of what constitutes “good lyrics” is always evolving, but back then it was all about The Honorary Title, Story of the Year and Tegan and Sara. Everything In Transit was very emotional and fit perfectly within that realm. Fun fact: I listened to this record around the time I got really into fountain pens and practiced calligraphy by inking Jack’s Mannequin lyrics in notebook margins. I’d also hold onto phrases like, “Sometimes perfection can be perfect hell” and use them out of context in real life. I was really preoccupied with getting people to think I was, like, THE poet laureate of the millennium (a moment of silence for my ambitions, please). Also, one of the songs off this record was featured on the Punk Goes Acoustic compilation CD. That really upmarketed Everything In Transit and Jack’s Mannequin in general for me. At one point, the Punk Goes series used to be the ultimate quality-assurance seal of approval. That, and being featured on One Tree Hill, which was another raging obsession of mine. In general, I tend to keep coming back to the records I liked when I was younger. I find it endlessly interesting to understand what made them so special in the first place. I also harbor a naive hope that I might get to “know myself better” if I understand why I like(d) the things I like(d).

1. “Holiday from Real”

Profound Genius annotation: “He just wants to live everyday like a holiday from real life. His friends and him frying their brain with drugs.”

Best lyric: “If it were up to me, everyday would be a holiday from reeeeeal”

Close contender: “What’s a girl to do/ With friends like this/ She lets me drive her car/ So I can score an eighth/ From the lesbians/ Out west in Venice”

Reina: For the longest time I thought he was saying “LA Z Z” not “LA’s easy.” God I’m so embarrassing.

Gauraa: “Rents are high and LA Z Z?” In what context would that have worked?

Reina: In my 12 year old mind it made sense! Maybe he was lazy, or LaZ? Who knows? It 100% could have been some alternative slang that I was not hip enough to be familiar with in my younger years.

Gauraa: It was a life before Urban Dictionary. God, how many years ago did this record even come out? PS: I really am listening to a literal record as we speak. I apparently own Everything In Transit on vinyl and have no recollection buying this. Must’ve been years ago.

Reina: I just realized that I’m listening to the 10th Anniversary Edition, which means this album is almost as old as when I first started listening to it. Spooky.

Gauraa: The next thing you know they’ll be calling Sum 41 a “heritage” band. Oh, wait, that already happened.

Reina: The line: “Some cheap red wine/Oh, the trouble we could get in/So let’s screw this one up right.” That was us once upon a time. Except more like, “Some cheap four lokos.”

Gauraa: I was going to say! We were never classy enough for cheap red wine. Alright so, what’s happening exactly? Why is she asking him to score an eighth from the lesbians?

Reina: Maybe she’s too drugged out to drive. I love the line “We’d lie and tell our friends it’s so much fun out here.” Story of my life.

Gauraa:  I second this. Also, the fact that other people feel this way makes me wonder if anybody is ever having fun? Jack’s Mannequin was so meta.

Reina: Maybe that IS the holiday from real. Like, what’s real? And what’s not? Who’s to say? We’re on holiday!

2. “The Mixed Tape”

Profound Genius annotation: “It happened so quickly.”

Best lyric: “This mix could burn a hole in anyone”

Close contender: “I swear to God this mix could sink the sun”

Gauraa: Peyton Sawyer and her red bedroom are featured in this video. I definitely wanted to paint my bedroom red (and kind of still do) and reenact this video after it came out. Also, this is a very aggressive song about the feeble act of putting together an “I want to hurt you” mixtape for an ex.

Reina: What I can’t get over is how passive aggressive the ex is, when she leaves him a letter when she breaks into his house. Like what? She must have A LOT of faith that he’s too sad to call the cops.

Gauraa: I know–she could’ve just A) left it in the mailbox B) dropped it at the doorstep or C) slid it under the door. Also, I’m just realizing that this is a hurtful song about finding the right song to hurt someone. Let’s think about that for a second.

Reina: He also second guesses his playlist and rearranges the songs a few times over the course of the song. Like he’s got to get the perfect playlist that will literally cut through this poor girl track by track. Like you said, fairly aggressive.

Gauraa: I respect the commitment. I’ll give him that.

Reina: But then he does kind of try to take more credit for it than he should. “It’s like I wrote every note with my own fingers.” ??? Like no you did not?? All you did was put other people’s songs in a heartbreaking order. And then write your own song about making a mixtape. I wonder if he would put his own song on the mixtape.

3. “Bruised”   

Profound Genius annotation: “While the vacation was more lovely than they could have asked for, this supposed “perfection” only makes the stark reality of their impending separation more dreadful. With such a looming end-date, it becomes difficult to enjoy each moment without thinking of how quickly it will all end.”

Best lyric: “I lace my Chucks, I walk the aisle/ I take my pills, the babies cry”

Close contender: “So read your books, but stay out late/ Some nights, some nights/ And don’t think that you can’t stop by the bar/ You haven’t shown your face here since the bad news/ Well I’m here till close, with fingers crossed/ Each night cause your place isn’t far”

Gauraa: I used to find this song incredibly sad and moving but revisiting these lyrics now I’m thinking he’s kind of an asshole? If he ended it, shouldn’t she get dibs on the bar, especially considering her place isn’t far?

Reina: I also feel like he straight stood her up as his way to break up with her? Which has to be the lowest form of break-up. Like worse than text message break-up.

Gauraa: I love that he mentions lacing his Chucks before walking the aisle. The juxtaposition of Chucks in a sad song is like this hilariously morose vignette of AP pop-punk/emo.

Reina: I just want to mention though: “So read your books, but stay out late some nights, some nights.”

Gauraa: I think this is his parting advice to the girlfriend he finally breaks up with? Which is like a weird thing to say to someone your age, especially your girlfriend.

Reina: Yeah, it’s like a strangely paternal way to put it.

Gauraa: I’m now thinking we should’ve titled this column “Psychoanalyzing Records We Loved And Ruining Them For Our Adult Lives” instead. I could be Freud, and you, Jung.

Reina: But also, I can’t help but feel like this girl is maybe a little similar to you, Gauraa. Did you date Andrew McMahon once upon a time? Like at 10 years old? Because then that line would make a lot of sense.

Gauraa: Wait, why? Because I read my books and stay out late some nights, some nights?

Reina: Don’t think that you can’t stop by the bar. (Not that you ever have or would.) Andrew is waiting for you at Old Man Hustle until close, with fingers crossed because your place isn’t far. And it’s locals comedy night so you better hurry.

Gauraa: You know, come to think of it, it’s weird–I’ve never not lived within walking distance of a bar. It’s like the Gods had me scripted to be the designated underage drunk, the Marissa Cooper, if you will, to their OC.  The inconsolable downward spiral. Also, please, Old Man Hustle was a comedy graveyard (sorry, Jarred, if you’re reading this). It was where jokes came to die. And I’m pretty sure that the comedians paid to perform.

4. “I’m Ready”

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “I wake up to find it’s another four aspirin morning, and I dive in/ 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/ I take the stairs to the car, and there’s fog on the windows/ I need caffeine in my bloodstream/ I take caffeine in the blood stream/ I grip the wheel and all at once I realize/ My life has become a boring pop song/ And everyone’s singing along”

Close contender: Nothing can top this. This is the best lyric ever written.

Gauraa: This is my favorite song on the record. It’s also been a four aspirin morning. But every morning is a four aspirin morning. I also love how he, all the while deadpan, says “I need caffeine in my bloodstream/ I take caffeine in my bloodstream” like it’s fucking heroin.

Reina:  I unfortunately relate to “I grip the wheel and all at once I realize/ My life has become a boring pop song/And everyone’s singing along.” Just this morning, I was driving myself to work at 7:30 AM thinking to myself, is this going to be the rest of my life?

Gauraa: To that, I wouldn’t say I’m “singing along,” but I’m definitely putting down some compressed handclaps.

Reina: Thank god for us. I’m ready too. Ready to retire.

Gauraa: This will be us in our retirement home. Only younger. The wheelchairs can stay.

Reina: Wow. Oh my god. I’m ready to be sedated. We could also start an anti-laundry movement. Our signs will say “If it’s not dirty, I’m gonna wear it!” and we’ll picket outside of the laundromat.

Gauraa: We should make Sympathizer t-shirts with that slogan. Folks, Fortune 500 companies, fork us over your money. We know what we’re doing.

Reina: Friends, Romans, Countrymen… Lend me your wallets!

5. “La La Lie”   

Profound Genius annotation: “Andrew decides that he’s done writing songs about this girl (Possibly Madeline).”

Best lyric: “I’ve got friends that la la lie”

Close contender: “I’m dulling the day with a drink/ In a parking garage by the theatre”

Gauraa: Alas, “La La Lie.” This might be, as they say, “our song.” Reina, would you care to, um, elaborate?

Reina: Oh god. Here goes:

Once upon a time, we were young and cool. We’d walk around with lattes in hand, discussing everything from the theory of the universe to who killed Laura Palmer. Well, one day, we found ourselves trying to figure out what Andrew McMahon meant in La La Lie when he sang “In the room that I rent now without you”

Gauraa: We weren’t sure whether it was “In the room that I rent now without you/ I’ve got friends who…” or “In the room that I rent now/ Without you, I’ve got friends who…” The phrasing was strange. I’m not sure if we came out with a verdict but I guess it makes sense both ways?

Reina: And if you listen closely, he phrases it like “In the room that I rent nooow… Without you, I ‘ve got friends who..” It’s so weird. What are you trying to tell us, Andrew?

Gauraa: Fun fact from my even more fun pop-punk days: I was friends with a lot of guys in bands that aspired to be, well, All Time Low (I know) and one of them told me that in “pop-punk phrasing,” it’s good to break off sentences and conjunct them with the next one for “melodic purposes.” I’ll just leave it at that.

Reina: What?! There are RULES to pop-punk? I guess that makes it even harder for use to really grasp the truth hidden within the phrases in this song.

Gauraa: We may never know. I have a question: are his friends helping him pull through by lying? And if so, lying about what? How are they helping? I need answers.

Reina: You know, I was just thinking about this, but didn’t Andrew McMahon have cancer? Literally diagnosed before this album came out? Maybe his friends are lying about that. Or maybe he’s la-la-lying to his friends? Actually, thinking about this song in that context, it can be interpreted as a really sad song. “I’m far too unstable to settle/I doubt that the doctors are wrong.” “This song for a long goodbye.” What sad lines, if you think that the person singing them has cancer and is living with this idea that it might actually be goodbye. :(

Gauraa: That actually makes a lot of sense with respect to all the songs that came before. “Holiday From Real” is actually a “Holiday from Real Life.” He looks “too thin” because he actually has cancer, which justifies her asking him if he’s sick. Also, it makes sense that they’re scoring an eighth from the lesbians.  You’re a good Sherlock, Reina.

6. “Dark Blue”  

Profound Genius annotation: “As he sees the water rising up and the sun sinking down, meaning that things are getting worse and worse, he decides to slow down and enjoy the time with her because what’s coming is inevitable and the more he tries to save their relationship, the worse it gets.”

Best lyric: “We were boxing, we were boxing the stars/ We were boxing (we were boxing)/ You were swinging from Mars”

Close contender: “I’ll wait/For the ambulance to come/Pick us up off the floor.”

Gauraa: So this song was about Andrew “going on a break” from a relationship with his fiancee. And legend has it that they used to have a blue light bulb in their bedroom. I never realized this song was so deep (pun intended).

Reina: Remember we would sing along to this on four loko nights?

Gauraa: Wait, are you referring to this night:

drinking4

Reina: Yikes. That picture still exists. But yes, that night and many others like it. Just you and me, and the whole town underwater.

Gauraa: This is just a sad, sad song about trying to fight destiny, surviving a relationship and it has such a happy uptempo bouncy piano line. I never knew how to feel/ what to do with a line like “We were boxing the stars.”

Reina: I never knew what to do with “I’ll wait/For the ambulance to come/Pick us up off the floor.” I wish you could call an ambulance to pick you up off the floor after a particularly nasty fight.

Gauraa: Am I the only one seeing this album in a very Sid and Nancy light now? There’s heroin imagery, nasty breakups, breaking and entry, ambulances picking them up off floors, implications of murder-suicide.

Reina: It’s true. The more we talk about this album, the more I’m realizing how sad it all is. I used to think this was a romantic album or something, but maybe the relationships in these songs are not ones that should be glorified.

Gauraa: Going back to the title and looking at in the context of cancer, the theme of time becomes very apparent. He’s in limbo, disassociating himself from real life with drugs and “holidays,”putting off these break-ups, not knowing whether the relationships can survive the period he, himself, might not survive.

Reina: It’s like a perfect shade of sad but beautiful dark blue.

7. “Miss Delaney”  

Profound Genius annotation: “He’s seeing a girl that’s unique and intriguing.”

Best lyric: “And she’s the vinyl queen/ From my surfer dream/ She likes the beach boys/ More than radio metal”

Close contender: “Oh, Miss Delaney/ Where’s your boyfriend?/ He isn’t up in heaven, so why treat him like he’s dead?”

Gauraa: You know, there are some lines that I really like in this song, like, “It’s biblical how fucked up my sleep can be/ But she won’t sleep with me.” It’s simple, straight to the point and has the right amount of self-pity i.e. it’s not whiney. But then there are lines that sound like an inverse cheesy bro-y pick-up line that are basically like, “Oh is your boyfriend up in heaven? Then why treat him like he’s dead? Huh?”

Reina: “But the times pass/When I think of you/Whenever I’m at dinner” is a cute line though. But also, it makes me wonder how many times a week he goes out for dinner, rather than just eating at home? Because you wouldn’t say “at dinner” if you were just eating at home, would you?

Gauraa: I can’t really place my finger on what it is but there’s something so clinical about the way he says “at dinner.” I suddenly picture Andrew as this clean-cut, polo-wearing, Pynchon-reading yuppie who has a lot of white, IKEA furniture and, like, drinks dry Chardonnay and has an abundance of eggshell linen napkins just lying around the house.

Reina: Maybe he means whenever he’s out to dinner. Like on a date? So he’s always thinking of Miss Delaney whenever he’s out on dates with other girls. Which he has to do because she may or may not have a boyfriend who may or may not be up in heaven, and also refuses to sleep with him. Also, just a side note/fun fact, my middle school science teacher was named Miss Delaney. Except she had a boyfriend who was very much alive and worked at Google, who she talked about every other class.

Gauraa: Did she also happen to like the Beach Boys more than radio metal?

Reina: Probably. She also showed us a LOT of movies and Bill Nye over the years, so it’s not too far out to call her a “film projectionist.”

Gauraa: I think your conspiracy theory just answered all fan-forum concerns from the year 2005.

8. “Kill the Messenger”   

Profound Genius annotation: “What he’s going to say will be immensely difficult.”

Best lyric: “Tell me, doctor, how to shake/ A waking nightmare that is only/ Worse when I am sleeping”

Close contender: “And get to church cause you’re a good girl/ And I never told you that”

Gauraa: Before sitting down to discuss this I had decided that “Kill The Messenger” was the worst song on the record. But now that I know it’s about dying, I feel like it’s immoral to say that. The fact that he was diagnosed was cancer justifies my biggest problem/ concern, which was the sitar dripping towards the end. I always wondered what the point of that was since it jarred and didn’t really add anything to the song but maybe he was trying to like symbolize some kind of spiritual experience. Or maybe even Nirvana.

Reina:  Truly. The whole first verse of this song can only be about dying, right? “I had that dream again where I was lost for good in outer space.” “Tell me doctor how to shake a waking nightmare that is only worse when I am sleeping.” Jesus. Please use more imagery that will force me to be terrified of dying. Also yeah, what is up with that sitar situation? Maybe he was hopped up on chemo drugs and had a spiritual awakening. He “found” himself in chemotherapy and suddenly sitar seemed like a good idea. “The Beatles effect” as some may call it. Just kidding, no one has ever said that.

Gauraa: I’d definitely say that. While we’re on the subject, this might be an incredibly unpopular opinion but I never really liked the hippie element George Harrison brought to the Beatles. I didn’t like it in their music and I certainly don’t like it on a Jack’s Mannequin record. I think I have an aversion towards hippie-ness in general.

Reina: For the record, I was a fan of the hippie element that drugs brought to George Harrison though. That mustache/beard/hair situation was a work of art.

Gauraa: Facial hair always makes you biased.

Reina: Facial hair is always a good look. As I and many other ladies will tell you. Don’t shoot the messenger! Speaking of killing messengers though, is there a phrase more upsetting than “Someone I used to know”? That has got to be the loneliest phrase. In any context, it’s like admitting that you lost touch to a point where you literally don’t know this person anymore. You only used to know them. It’s so sad to think about.

Gauraa: Well, living with a literal deadline can be depressing.

9. “Rescued”

Profound Genius annotation: N/A which, conveniently enough for us, also stands for Not Annotated here.

Best lyric: “And I’m thinking I’d prefer not to be rescued”

Close contender: “And I’ve got spun/ It appears you’re spun as well/ It happens when you pay attention”

Reina: This song is literally about dying too, is it not? It’s such a nice piano line, but he’s hitting me with lines like “For the last time” and “I’m thinking I’d prefer not to be rescued.” “This may be my last song”?? We’ve ruined any chance of listening to this album lightheartedly.

Gauraa: It’s the sudden moment of self awareness reserved for those who are soon to die. This is him saying, “Give up on me, don’t bother with the life-support.”

Reina: What do you think he means when he says “Two to one” in the first verse, then “Two to none” in the second?

Gauraa: I feel like most of the lyrics on this record are very elusive, which is the beauty of it, because we can come back after a decade and still rummage for a meaning. I think when he says “Two to one,” he is talking about his fiance losing him as he loses himself to cancer. When he says “Two to none,” he kind of alludes to his fiance losing herself as she loses him. He says, “I can feel her, she’s dying,” even though he’s the one on the deathbed. And finally, there’s nothing left of them. Two to none.

Reina: I hate the way that he repeats the line “Please don’t get me rescued”, first with “I’m finally numb” then with “I feel alright.”

Gauraa: He’s preparing to die. It’s the most devastating thing.

Reina: It’s so devastating. He’s so numb to it all and so ready. “Say you’ll miss me one more time.”

10./11.”MFEO Pt 1 – Made for Each Other / Pt 2 – You Can Breathe”  

Profound Genius annotation: N/A — I believe it got too emotional for the annotators as well.

Best lyric: “We filled our cups, and lit one up/ The snow began to burn; “You said the rain’s the rain”

Close contender: “Some people never change at all/ We’re still the same compulsive drunks”

Gauraa: I’m kind of happy the album didn’t close with “Rescued” because that would be a terrible, terrible way for it to end. This is a nice two-part medley–well, not a medley–a two-part song, I guess.

Reina: I think this is my favorite song (songs?) on this record. The way it transitions from the upbeat and bubbly MFEO Pt.1 to the dramatic and emotional You Can Breathe is seamless and beautiful. It’s like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a funeral, but I went to one once and someone shared a really nice memory and everyone was all smiles and happy remembering a good time for a second, but then the reality of the situation set in and the somber mood crept back in. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s kind of how this song feels.

Gauraa: No, I think you’re absolutely right. Pt.1 is a celebration of his life, a consolation of sorts. It’s also kind of a closure song, for him, for the listeners, and for the woman he loves. Pt. 2 is clearly about freeing himself from existence: “You can breathe now but the air is running out.”

Reina: I love it when the first time he sings, “You can breathe but the air is running out on you,” he sounds like he runs out of air just as he’s saying “running out.”

Gauraa: The end to a concept album about dying is, obviously, death. Yet, despite having known it was in the cards for so long, it comes as a rude shock because secretly you were rooting for a happy ending, for “Two to none” to become “None to two.” But the air has run out. He’s no longer in transit. He’s gone.

Reina: He softens the blow. The end is about life and death. “Is it possible for the world to look this way forever?” But knowing what we know, it makes it that much better to listen to “The Resolution” and to hear him say “I’m alive and I don’t need a witness to know that I survived.”

Reina and Gauraa did not expect for it to be such an emotional Friday night. They blame Everything In Transit and insist they need to be alone now. You can find them here next Friday. They will be drinking cheap red wine and listening to Paramore.

reina

my life has become a boring Christian rock song and everybody’s singing along

May 20, 2016

About Author

Gauraa Shekhar Gauraa is a freelance writer based out of New York and Mumbai. She founded The Sympathizer because she was sick of having editors reprimand her for ending sentences with prepositions and charging songs guilty of being "as contagious as cholera in a sewer pipe." She is currently working on her first book.


3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Jack’s Mannequin’s Everything In Transit: A Discussion”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *