Something Corporate is something to watch

By Elly Rifkin, ArtsEtc. Writer

Back from a stint in Europe, Cali.-emo rockers Something Corporate return to Madison Sunday on a co-headlining tour with The Juliana Theory.

A pleasing assembly of pop, punk and alternative rock, the signature sound of Something Corporate centers on 18-year-old songwriter/pianist/vocalist Andrew McMahon.

In an interview with, McMahon points out that he began playing piano when a close family member passed away, and he hasn’t stopped since.

His charismatic vocal presence and lyricism are the thrust in this musical engine, using a sophisticated flare for piano arrangements to compliment guitarists Josh Partigton and William Tell’s crunchy distorted guitar chords. Bassist, Clutch, and drummer, Brian Ireland, round out the quintet.

All five guys, unlike many members of bands in similar genres, sing backup vocals with ease. There is a fantastic confrontational feature to their piano-driven melodic sound, a sort of punk twist on Ben Folds Five.

Interestingly, McMahon cites one of his main influences as Elton John. With a lyrical intelligence far beyond his years, McMahon writes his songs heavily saturated with feeling and energy, true to an authentic emo sensibility.

Fresh out of high school, the band almost immediately became a local favorite in clubs and later began opening for bands like Sugar Ray and Better Than Ezra.

After releasing its first CD Ready. . . Break, a now-out-of-print album created in conjunction with a local concert venue, Something Corporate released its debut EP, Audioboxer with MCA in 2001.

Not surprisingly, many record labels began to campaign for the band’s signature. Eventually, youth-oriented punk/indie label Drive-Thru Records signed the dynamic Orange County group, recognizing the band’s potential as a crossover act that would appeal to fans of several musical genres.

As McMahon points out on the band’s website, “They sign cool bands and connect with kids in a way that not many record labels do.”

Something Corporate’s most recent release, 2002’s Leaving Through The Window, is a thoroughly cohesive product full of emotion, great execution of harmony and some piano riffs that will surely make listeners melt.

Mainly featuring catchy, upbeat tunes with a few standout ballads, the energy, as well as the keenly polished musical production, exceeds expectation.

“If you C Jordan,” a particularly notable tune, has a playful irony, combining humorous lyrics with a harder version of McMahon’s usual melodic writing. Using chord progressions and melodic guitar parts similar to Weezer, the song’s lyrical content describes an ongoing battle with a high school bully who can’t seem to understand that he’s no longer in high school.

“Punk Rock Princess” and “Astronaut” are especially impressive and catchy upbeat tracks. “Drunk Girl” has an infectious chorus with addicting harmonies that beg to be sung along to (loudly).

Other tunes like “Cavanaugh Park” and “Not What It Seems” utilize gorgeous strings and piano leads that give each song an intricate soundscape, yet a certain easy loveliness rarely heard on any rock album with pop influences.

Very few young musical acts can turn melodic writing into a force so mighty. The album displays a lyrical and musical maturity far beyond the capability of similar bands. After a few listens to this album, you’ll be easily hooked and ready to enter the Corporate world.

Something Corporate, along with The Juliana Theory, co-headlines a sold-out show at The Annex this Sunday, Feb. 2.