Upside Down Flowers by Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness [8/10]

How on earth did this brilliant singer-songwriter slide past me for so long? Andrew McMahon is an inspired word painter and melody creator and “Upside Down Flowers“ is his third solo after two successful band stints. He looks like full-on American white bread but make no mistake, there’s magic in every one of these eleven tracks. The musical style refers back to classic 70s and 80s high-blown rock, arranged beautifully enough to fit into that old sub-genre of “baroque pop-rock,” but none of it feels careworn, and perhaps that’s due to the way McMahon anchors most songs with his lovely piano figures. Butch Walker’s production (he’s also one of those multi instrumentalists) is sonically intelligent. Vocally McMahon can echo Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, or Billy Joel, but once again, there’s something aching and true about his voice that transcends those cheap “sounds-like” comparisons. Is “Upside Down Flowers“ an ode to lost times? It certainly said that to me, with its songs of family moves, tree houses, Vegas gambles, short-fling heartbreak, and new starts. Amongst the many highlights are “Ohio” with its road trip images and ornately worded chorus; the sweet-but-not-saccharine “Penelope,” and the cryptic, developing, lovely “Everything Must Go.” And if you love rock, I defy you to grace your ears with “Teenage Rockstars” without your heart swelling with half a century’s musical hopes and joys.

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