I'm With Stupid

Aimee Mann

Geffen Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/22/1999

God, this woman can write great songs and it seems down right indecent that she has to resort to peddling her latest album at her shows for lack of a recording label.

Success has not been an ally to Aimee Mann, a master songsmith, who's had to battle for recognition. She first introduced herself as the front woman of the 80's band 'Til Tuesday, which had one big hit with "Voices Carry." This foray into 80's pop belied the true brain beneath the wild coiffure.

It wasn't until Mann made designs on a solo career that her writing skill flourished. Her first album was a melodic package called Whatever. But it failed to make an impression on the market. She languished in record label purgatory after her label, Imago Records, went belly-up and the president, Terry Ellis, refused to relinquish her contract. She eventually signed with Geffen Records but was recently dropped from their roster after the tentacles of Universal Music Corp seized the label.

Having the song "That's Just What You Are" featured in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Melrose Place was not enough to bring her second album I'm With Stupid to the limelight. The album is a cornucopia of melodious hooks and intelligent lyrics, and it is literally peppered with guest appearances, most notably Difford and Tilbrook who perform on almost half of the cuts.

While Mann can work out a good tune with hooks a plenty its her lyrics that really stand out. She sets the songs into themes while rhyming words with the flare and abandon of Lord Byron. Her knack for themes really shows up in "Amateur" and "Frankenstein." In the former song she looks back on a failed relationship. The track is injected with legal jargon and she takes the trial of loving a loser to the courtroom: "I'm told the case is now closed/So I can come to my senses/But when the question is posed/I'll have this meager defense."

On "Frankenstein," she equates a love relationship to a monstrous creation which would be better off dismantled: "And when later we find that the thing we devised/Has the villagers clamouring for it's demise/We will have to admit the futility of/Trying to make something more of this jerry-built love."

The album has it quirky fun side with the retro "glam rock" sounding "Superball", either a self proclamation of hyperactivity or the ability to rebound from bad circumstances. "I'm a superball/You can you can bounce me/watch me ricochet off the wall." And there's "That's Just What You Are," a song of exasperation and resignation over an indifferent lover. The marriage of the Squeeze sound with Mann's here, is a match made in heaven.

Her frustration with record companies comes out in "You're With Stupid Now": "You don't know how to manufacture/Sturdy bones with a hairline fracture/The crazy will of a Margaret Thatcher that/They've all got."

There's no shortage of moving ballads,such as the aforementioned "Amateu,""Par For the Course," "Ray" and "You Could Make a Killing" (with Juliana Hatfield supplying feathery background vocals); plus a good supply of sturdy rockers: "Choice In The Matter," "Sugar Coated" and "Long Shot." Check out the clever inclusion of the riff from Squeeze's "Up The Junction" as a solo in the latter tune.

It's a pity that a talent like this has to linger in the shadows waiting for more exposure. But at least Mann can take solace in the fact that the likes of Difford and Tilbrook, Michael Penn and Elvis Costello are clamoring to work with her. Do your ears and mind a favor: buy this album and feast on the fruits of an incredible talent.

Rating: A

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© 1999 Alicia St. Rose and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.