Copyright 1996 Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Inc.
Stereo Review Magazine
LENGTH: 331 words
VOLUME: 61; ISSUE: 5
BYLINE: Ken Richardson
TITLE: Aimee Mann: I'm with Stupid
AIMEE MANN: I'm with Stupid
DGC 24951 (56 min).
Recording: Charmingly mid- to hi-fi
This one sneaks up on you. After playing the first two tracks of "I'm with Stupid" and hearing their uneasy balance between dirty guitars and Aimee Mann's clear voice, you may well question the critical fuss made over material that sounds so ordinary. But then comes Sugarcoated and you're caught, those guitars building to a simple but oh-so-effective crescendo, that voice sliding into some nicely nasty barbs: "Out of your mouth comes a stream of cliches / Now I have given you so much rope you should've been hanging for days." And then comes You Could Make a Killing, a fine acoustic ballad, and then Superball, where Mann's pop instincts are supremely catchy-as-catchy-can. And before you know it, we've got quite an album here.
Mann opens Par for the Course with an affecting flourish of lyrics, using phrases we've heard before to lure us into a pointed narrative: "It's par for the course, you backed the wrong horse /You put down the phone and cried for yourself / And for what you couldn't have /A plea -- that won't do / Now that she serves it to you." This is the album's emotional centerpiece, Mann playing all the instruments through six minutes of utter dejection. She's at the top of her craft when she can sing a common line in the chorus -- "I don't even know you anymore" -- and still make us feel the hurt.
The layers applied to her previous album, "Whatever," are absent, but Mann remains a fan of attractive melodies, beautiful harmonies, and playful production touches. And good old rock-and-roll, as she closes "I'm with Stupid" with the ringing It's Not Safe, driven by guitarist Michael Penn and background vocalists Glenn Tilbrook and Bonzo Dog/Python/Rutle Neil Innes. Hats off to an artist who almost got eaten by the industry but lived to sing the tale.