Copyright 1993 The Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times
November 29, 1993, Monday, Home Edition
NAME: AIMEE MANN
SECTION: Calendar; Part F; Page 12; Column 1; Entertainment Desk
LENGTH: 568 words
HEADLINE: AIMEE MANN SAILS A SEA OF HEARTBREAK; POP MUSIC: THE TIL TUESDAY SONGWRITER'S SOLO DEBUT ALBUM, 'WHATEVER,' COMES PARTLY OUT OF HER 'BOUTS WITH MACHISMA.'
BYLINE: By CHRIS WILLMAN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Elvis Costello is known for being stingy with his praise and liberal with his criticism. So when he chooses to champion a fellow singer-songwriter, it attracts attention.
This year he sang the praises of Aimee Mann in the English music press, saying he wished he'd written these opening lines to one of her recent songs: "Today's the Fourth of July / Another June has gone by / And when they light up our town I just think what a waste of gunpowder and sky."
"He's very opinionated," notes a grateful Mann of Costello. "Woe unto those who get on the wrong side of his criticism. I'm glad to be on the correct side."
As the above couplets might indicate, Mann -- who appears at the Roxy on Tuesday and the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Wednesday -- shares Costello's gift for aching bitterness as well as his knack for intricately crafted, corrosive pop.
Her most recent release, "Whatever" -- a solo debut after three records for Epic Records leading the Boston group Til Tuesday -- is the breakup album of the year, full of exquisitely Beatlesque bile and brilliantly framed blame-placing. Woe unto those ex-lovers who get on the wrong side of her songwriting.
Though many of the songs deal with the heartbreak of being spurned, she doesn't see her music as being particularly vulnerable, noting that such songs as "Stupid Thing" and "I Could Hurt You Now" come more from "my bouts with machisma."
"The fact that you're saying it means that you don't feel vulnerable about it," says Mann, 32. "People who feel vulnerable keep it to themselves, believe me.
"If there's anything that I feel sort of tentative writing about, by the time I get into the song I say, 'You know, nobody's got anything on me. What are they gonna do? Think I fell in love with somebody and it didn't work out? Tough s---.' It happens to everybody.
"It certainly doesn't only happen to me that I get the short end of the stick, either. I've certainly given other people the short end of the stick more times than I can count, and those are the times that I'm least proud of. I've written songs from their viewpoint, because I know how it feels to be handed a raw deal by somebody you thought was looking out for your welfare."
So some of her angry, lost-love laments are actually written from the point of view of boyfriends that she's dumped?
"Absolutely. I've written songs with the help of that person -- about them." Among the exes who've collaborated with her pre- and post-split have been Jules Shear, with whom she wrote the song "J for Jules" on the last Til Tuesday album, and Jon Brion, who produced and played most of the instruments on the new record. After going solo in 1991, Mann recorded "Whatever" without a contract -- much to the benefit of the album, she believes, since she used a lot of old Mellotron keyboards, stereo separation and other Beatles-like touches a major label might have balked at. "Whatever," released on the Imago label, hasn't blazed a sales trail, but has been critically acclaimed as her best work yet; CD Review magazine just named it album of the year.
Fans who aren't too intimidated by her lyrical brutality to talk to her tell her they find it therapeutic. Especially, of course, if they've just ended a relationship.
Says Mann, "It's always helpful to have anything that indicates to you you're not alone in this particular kind of wretchedness."
GRAPHIC: Photo, Aimee Mann: "I know how it feels to be handed a raw deal." LAURA LEVINE / Visages