Bachelor No. 2
SuperEgo Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/20/2000
"Never judge an album by its cover." I still swear by that. But, with Aimee Mann's latest, Bachelor No. 2, its hard not to: it's so slim that I've lost it three times in the past 3 weeks, it's been in a sea of paperwork and bills each time. The good news though: Bachelor No. 2 is so quirky and flat out good, you're willing to kill a half hour to search your apartment for it.
Mann, once passed on from label to label like a beer bong at a greek party, knows how to market herself. With the success of the Magnolia soundtrack, which featured mostly Mann's tunes, Bachelor No. 2 has three of those gems on it. And they're close to the back of the album, forcing you to listen to her new material while keeping you fixed as you wait for the familiar tunes near the end of the album.
Mann's voice is reminiscent of her peers, such as Lucinda Williams and even Margo Timmons of the Cowboy Junkies. And with the help of Jon Brion (who orchestrated Fiona Apple's majestic When the Pawn...) Pearl Jam guru Brendan O'Brien and her beau, Michael Penn, Mann is able to forge an original voice that's unmistakable, for most of the time.
On tracks like "How Am I Different," "Red Vines" and "It Takes All Kinds," she veers dangerously close to sounding like a Prozac spokesperson. But other tracks, such as the orchestrated "Calling It Quits," the coolly playful "The Fall Of The World's Own Optimist" and "Satellite" give the album a much needed cohesiveness.
Lyrically, Mann veers from being flat out brilliant to a really good writer in an introductory to Poetry Class in college. In fact, the opening lines of "Ghost World" have been uttered by far too many students I know already. "Finals blew, I barely knew my graduation speech/and with college out of reach/if I can't find a job…" Yes, good poetry does mean simplicity sometimes, but the overdramatic chorus just doesn't gel with the plain, spoken account of the first part of the song.
As original of a talent as Mann is, Bachelor No. 2 reaches greatness on certain occasions while leaving other songs to float aimlessly in between. Maybe it was Mann's stress with shopping the album around to a different label, but the album just doesn't have the mournful, beautiful flow that Magnolia had that gave her a new life in the music world. Still, her voice and playful arrangements keep you coming back to Bachelor No. 2 and it remains a frontrunner for "Best album to listen to while you're bummed" so far this year.