Copyright 1985 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times

June 3, 1985, Monday, Home Edition

SECTION: Calendar; Part 6; Page 1; Column 1; Entertainment Desk

LENGTH: 579 words


BYLINE: By ROBERT HILBURN, Times Pop Music Critic

   One look at Aimee Mann and you know the editors at Rolling Stone are just dying for the day when they can justify putting this dazzling blonde's picture on the cover. She's got the best cheekbones since Sting.

That cover date seemed within reach on the basis of her band's hit single, "Voices Carry," and -- more crucially -- her own charismatic performance in the video of that song.

In the video, Mann moves convincingly through a series of roles, from sophisticated lady to young spitfire. This performance helped generate enough interest in the local debut of her band, 'til tuesday, to sell out both of its weekend shows at the Palace.

When the curtain went up Saturday, the males in the young date-night crowd edged toward the stage, leaving their companions to scramble after them. The guys roared when 'til tuesday (the band prefers the lower case) walked on stage. The fans pressed even closer as Mann, her hair in the same graceful punk style of the video and album cover, moved to the microphone.

Things, however, calmed quickly.

Mann may still develop character as a singer and a performer; there was a suggestion in her refusal to avoid playing on her appearance on stage that she is genuinely interested in the musical aspects of her career. But she exhibited little of that necessary character at this point -- and the rest of the East Coast band played as anonymous an hour of new-wave-tinged mainstream rock as I can remember.

Memo to Rolling Stone's circulation department: Sorry guys, you're going to have to wait a while on Mann. But what the heck: Just put Madonna on the cover again. She's only been there twice in the last eight months.

Madonna -- the Queen of MTV -- surprised a lot of people recently by actually delivering the goods live, but we've got to be prepared for several false alarms in this age of overnight video stars. We've also got to be somewhat forgiving.

The temptation is to overreact to every video star who seems unworthy of special attention and declare that MTV is making a mockery out of pop by overemphasizing the visual aspect. Granted, there are lots of problems with video, and this whole business of great cheekbones is one of them.

But appearance has been a factor in rock ever since Elvis Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker, made sure Elvis' face got as much exposure in the '50s as Elvis' voice.

The difference is that MTV et al. speed up the process by allowing viewers to see dozens of new faces -- over and over -- each week. This sudden impact mean bands had better be ready when their turns come up.

Mann, who also plays bass, shows promise on 'til tuesday's first album, contributing serviceable lyrics about romantic disappointments. She also sings with enough charm in places to make you think that she'd be fine if she could hook up with a writer-arranger like Dave Stewart, who could supply more bite to the music.

At the Palace, however, Mann proved to be far from Annie Lennox herself. Her voice was effective on some songs, but appeared thin -- even squeaky -- on others, and she demonstrated little stage command. Though congenial, Mann seemed simply unprepared for the attention she is getting.

There is commercial potential here -- as revealed in the East Coast band's rather passionate delivery of a couple of apparently new songs. But Mann and her mates -- including Robert Holmes on guitar -- need a lot more musical ideas and stage punch if they expect anyone to stay tuned.

GRAPHIC: Photo, Aimee Mann in local debut with band 'til tuesday at Palace. RANDY LEFFINGWELL / Los Angeles Times