Copyright 1996 Billboard Publications, Inc.  

January 06, 1996

LENGTH: 1294 words




After overcoming various quirks of fate that kept her recording career in limbo, Aimee Mann returns with her second solo album, "I'm With Stupid," due Jan. 30 from DGC/Geffen.

The encouraging prelude to this release came last year, when the track "That's Just What You Are" hit the Hot 100 as a single from Giant's "Melrose Place" soundtrack. The song spent six weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 93 in February. The track also appears on "I'm With Stupid," which was released in the U.K. last October. This month, the English music magazine Mojo picks the album as one of 1995's 25 best.

Mann's first solo album, "Whatever," was released by the now-defunct Imago in 1993. A critics' favorite, "Whatever" sold nearly 130,000 copies, according to SoundScan. After Imago's demise, Mann was held in legal no man's land, without a functioning label but unable to record for another. As part of purchasing her contract from Imago, Geffen reissued "Whatever" Dec. 19.

With Boston-based 'Til Tuesday in the mid-'80s, Mann scored a top 10 debut single with "Voices Carry" on Epic. Also, the song's melodramatic video was an MTV favorite. Nonetheless, 'Til Tuesday's deal with Epic soured after three albums, with the label attempting to remake the band to fit the fashion of the times, Mann says. The group dissolved in 1989.

According to Robert Smith, director of marketing for Geffen, "Aimee has the potential to be a big star. She's proven herself artistically but hasn't reached her commercial potential for whatever reason. Our challenge is to help match her commercial achievements with her artistic ones."

On "I'm With Stupid," Mann plies her forte of examining relationships--the personal and the professional. This time, she highlights the moronic conduct that often marks them, from subtle manipulation in the aggressive "Long Shot" to pattern behavior in the dark-hued "Par For The Course."

"Writing songs is usually a way of figuring out what's bugging you," Mann says. "And often what bugs you is someone being unreasonable or idiotic--including yourself."

Musically, Mann strove to make "I'm With Stupid" more stripped down and electric guitar-oriented than her past work. And while the album reflects her British Invasion tendencies, it also incorporates lessons learned from modern rockers ranging from Liz Phair to the Loud Family, from the Posies to Beck.

"I wanted to make the record less ornate and without all that glossy, artificial high end you hear on the radio," Mann says. "And I was less interested in complexity this time. From the Beck and Liz Phair albums, I learned that short, simple songs could be interesting, too."

Written with and produced by longtime Mann collaborator/multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion, "I'm With Stupid" features several cameo appearances by alternative rock notables.

"That's Just What You Are" and "Frankenstein" boast the inimitable backing vocals of Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. Juliana Hatfield sings high harmonies on "You Could Make A Killing" and "Amateur." Michael Penn plays lead guitar on "It's Not Safe," and ex-London Suede guitarist Bernard Butler co-wrote and lends his glam-flavored guitar to "Sugarcoated."

At WBCN Boston, VP/PD Oedipus has already been playing the track "You Could Make A Killing" (from an early import) on his new-music show, "Nocturnal Emissions." "I'm playing it for the cult audience now," he says. "Once Geffen sends me the record, I'll play it 20 times a week."

Oedipus says that the station gave "That's Just What You Are" substantial spins last year. "It was a strong song for us," he says. "And I loved 'Whatever.' Aimee's an excellent songwriter."

Going to triple-A radio Jan. 9, the first single from "I'm With Stupid" will be the catchy "Choice In The Matter." "Long Shot" may be a separate emphasis cut for alternative radio later, according to Alan Oreman, director of rock radio promotion for Geffen.

"Choice In The Matter" will go immediately to Boston-area alternative stations, as well as other alternative outlets expressing an interest, Oreman says. Geffen also will service triple-A with the reissue of "Whatever." In addition, a video should be in the works for "Choice In The Matter."

"We are really excited about the new album," Oreman says. "There are four or five very strong songs on this record that can make it last all year."

Smith adds, "Aimee crosses lines of format, age, and musical taste, from the sensitive singer/songwriter fans to alternative. And she is good with people, so her personal involvement with the press, retail, and radio while on tour will help promote her music."

Says Eric Levin, owner of Criminal Records in Atlanta, "We consider Aimee a friend of the store. She's been in here, and we converse via E-mail occasionally. She has always been the nicest person, as well as a great artist.

"The last album was great and did about as well as it could have without a supportive label," Levin adds. "I think the new album is stunning, and we're gonna do all we can for it--playing it in the store and putting up posters. And when she comes to town, we'd love for her to do an in-store with us. We have (an Internet World Wide Web) site and have been putting videoclips of our in-stores online. I'd like to do that with her."

Mann is scheduled to begin a club tour on the East Coast later this month. In November, she toured the U.K., playing a handful of dates in England as well as shows in Dublin and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Mann also played some live acoustic sets on U.K. radio with Brion. Her live shows are booked through Creative Artists Agency.

Mann and her manager, former 'Til Tuesday bandmate Michael Hausman, are currently casting about for song publishers.

After her past frustrations with the record industry, Mann says she is glad to be with Geffen and is gradually getting excited about the career aspect of making music again. "I felt like quitting at one time, it was so depressing," she says. "This business is often run by lunatics and imbeciles, but once you know that, you can be prepared."