Something Corporate – Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of “Leaving Through the Window” | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Something Corporate – Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of “Leaving Through the Window”

The Album First Came Out on May 7, 2002

May 09, 2022
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Behind Southern California’s “orange curtain,” the youthful inhabitants of Orange County’s suburban blocks were no less partial to the spell of punk rock ennui than were their neighbors in San Diego and Los Angeles. From within this temperate tranquility of sun, surf, and straight-laced American living, underrated alt rock outfit Something Corporate emerged with its sophomore album and major-label debut Leaving Through the Window—a warm concoction of guitar-heavy pop-punk and emotive piano rock, charmingly complemented by frontman Andrew McMahon’s naive boy-next-door lyrical sensitivity. Essentially a blueprint for McMahon’s evolving career, Leaving Through the Window was written during his transition from adolescence to young adulthood, a number of its tracks embodying the fascinations upon which he would eventually build his musical legacy as an emo architect. Although greeted with mixed reviews upon its release, Leaving Through the Window has nevertheless been offered more amiable retrospective evaluations, with many critics naming it among its genre’s most influential albums.

Opening cut “I Want to Save You,” when examined from a critical perspective, serves as both an exemplary pop-punk anthem and one of McMahon’s finest recordings. An ideal composition of its genre, the track is flawless, its youthful electricity alive in McMahon’s opening depiction: “Standing on the edge of morning/Scent of sex and new found glory/Playing as she’s pulling back her hair.” Here, the listener is whisked away to teenage bedrooms in the early hours, through the album’s titular window, and back across empty nighttime streets. When McMahon assures the listener that “she won’t sleep at all,” his desperation appears to mourn not only the personal plight of the object of his desire, but also that of his own restless youth, which has shifted from afternoon classes to the prospect of a greater world beyond the confines of high school. In this vein, such tracks as “I Woke Up in a Car” and “Cavanaugh Park” further explore this transition and its aftermath, the former a bittersweet celebration of liberation and exploration, the latter a nostalgically melancholy reflection upon age and innocence lost. While lyrically clumsy in several areas, these two tracks are afforded by their shortcomings respective degrees of emotional authenticity, mile-markers along the road to McMahon’s poetic maturity.

Elsewhere, the lyrics to “If You C Jordan” read more like a manic diary entry, McMahon harnessing an unusual amount of catty resentment toward his former classmate and bully as he declares, “Fuck you, Jordan/You make me sick/High school’s over/I don’t care if you dye your hair/You’ll always be a little redhead bitch.” However, such screeds, regrettable in hindsight, are balanced by moments of remarkable clarity on McMahon’s part, as found on album standouts “The Astronaut” and “Not What It Seems,” both of which boast deep lyrical and melodic intelligence. The former is especially significant, featuring some of McMahon’s earliest references to space travel, a recurring theme within his lyrics to the present day. Still, the album ultimately stands to reflect the scene from which it sprang, the shredding “Punk Rock Princess” remaining a genre classic, on which McMahon declares, “If you could be my punk rock princess/I would be your garage band king.” Tracks such as “Hurricane,” “Fall,” and “You’re Gone” reinforce the group’s pristine pop-punk sound, making Leaving Through the Window a pop cultural time capsule, well worth unsealing 20 years on, as the pop-punk movement begins to receive serious critical reevaluation. Meanwhile, “Good News,” “Straw Dog,” and “Maps & Globes” mark McMahon’s movement toward the piano-based indie pop sound to which he would devote his side project Jack’s Mannequin, whose releases Everything in Transit and The Glass Passenger still contain the artist’s most fully realized and notable work.

Leaving Through the Window, while rough and largely inconsistent in comparison to the group’s subsequent offering North, is a well-intentioned and important work, its influence on similar releases to come indisputable. Something Corporate, though having only released three albums, remains a significant act within its genre’s canon, its songs forming a collective portrait of late-’90s and early-’00s American youth culture. Andrew McMahon has proven himself a versatile artist, his sound having evolved from its early punk roots, scattering into various directions over the past two decades. All roads, however, tend to lead home, and the world in transition on Leaving Through the Window has distilled the entirety of McMahon’s output, the music’s bare soul instilling a tinge of envy within the rest of us toward those fortunate enough to have lived well in Southern California, back when doing so mattered, while still finding time to lament it.

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