Copyright 1996 The News Tribune

The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)

February 16, 1996, Friday

SECTION: SoundLife; Pg. SL9

LENGTH: 630 words


BYLINE: Marisa Lencioni; The News Tribune



What: Aimee Mann, with Semisonic and Three Day Wheelie.

Where: Crocodile Cafe, 2200 Second Ave., Seattle.

When: 10 tonight.

Tickets: sold out.

TRIBline: To hear a sampling of Aimee Mann's "That's Just What You Are" call TRIBline at 596-6500 and enter TribCode SONG (7664).

There's a theory that from hard times come good people, and if that's true, Aimee Mann must qualify for sainthood.

The lanky, platinum-haired singer-songwriter, who first made her mark fronting the '80s group 'Til Tuesday, has had more than her share of frustrations in the past few years. The success that 'Til Tuesday achieved with the 1984 hit "Voices Carry" was two-sided - it got the band more exposure, but Mann said that exposure brought increasing pressure from their record company to make their music more of what they termed "marketable."

As a result, the record label wouldn't release the acoustic work Mann had done, nor would it allow her to record elsewhere, resulting in a three-year impasse.

But new label DGC Records is behind her just-released CD "I'm With Stupid," and it's clear from the clever lyrics and spare musicianship that the true Aimee Mann is being heard from once again.

"My music always ends up being personal, even if it's taken from the viewpoint of someone else," Mann said by phone from the East Coast. She has been working 14 straight days without a day off and is just coming to life after spending all night in a tour bus. "You can recognize someone else's experience, imagine how it feels. 'Voices Carry' was actually about troubles a male friend of mine was having with his girlfriend, who felt weird about demonstrations of affection in public. But I could understand the emotion."

Mann has often been labeled by critics as a feminist artist because many of her songs deal with the negative aspects of male/female relationships. That makes her laugh.

"You know, I don't really have a problem with being labeled 'feminist,' " Mann said. "I think women shy away from that name, because there are men who want to give the word feminist a bad name to make women ashamed of it. Or certain reviewers who hear the words to my songs and assume that every song is about how my boyfriend left me! It must touch a chord of guilt in them, because they react so personally to what I say."

In fact, Mann said because some listeners expect to hear certain themes in her songs, they hear heartbreak even when it isn't there.

"I've spent the last two years saying no, trying to avoid relationships because I'm so involved in my work," Mann said. "The song 'Superball' ably represented me then, about how I'm bouncing here and there and all over because I have so much going on. And the reviewer in SPIN thinks it's about how I hate my boyfriend."

Mann doesn't think her song themes are that much different from any other artists' and said she just writes about what's on her mind.

"It's like a musical roll of the eyes," Mann said. "About how ridiculous it all is, or how to come to terms with people you've hurt, things like that. Irritation at record company politics - that was the quintessential 'I'm With Stupid' experience." But touring is the backbone of any new project, and Mann and her band have been playing sold-out shows all over the country to support "I'm With Stupid."

"The tour is going really well," Mann said. "But the weird thing is the extra pressure that goes with it. It's hard to be on top of that and also be constantly nice and charming and funny. That takes more energy than anything."

That's why, Mann said, when the tour breaks in March she's taking her band to Disneyland.

"We need the break," Mann said, then laughed. "That, and if we could have a clean change of clothes, that's enough."

GRAPHIC: ON THE COVER ; BW PHOTO ; Kate Garner ; Geffen Records: Below right: Singer Aimee Mann will be at Seattle's Crocodile Cafe on Saturday.