An album a week #9: I’m with Stupid by Aimee Mann
This is turning into ‘an album a month’ but at least that means I’ll never run out of material…
I’m going to be a bit unfair with this one, not because I don’t like the album, I do, but because I’m going to talk about someone other than the artist.
Well, first, the album. It can sound a bit same-y on initial listens, and if you don’t like listening to a woman who’s really pissed off and disappointed, both by her latest failure of a man and her own failure to see through him sooner, then lyrically it won’t work for you either.
But you’re the idiot who keeps believing in luck
When you just can’t get it through your head that
No one else gives a fuck
(‘It’s Not Safe’)
And right at the start the album greets us with:
You fucked it up
You should’ve quit
Had changed a bit
Not to mention (now this is kind of funny):
So row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
I hope you drown and never come back
(Choice in the Matter)
So she’s not happy and she’s not going to pretend otherwise.
My favourite tracks are probably ‘You’re With Stupid’, ‘That’s Just What You Are’, ‘Frankenstein’ (with it’s lurching yet groovy beat and keen [as in sharp] lyrics) and ‘It’s Not Safe’. These all come in the second half of the album; the first half is solid but less differentiated, though ‘Choice in the Matter’ is pretty tuneful.
Now the unfair bit. While the songs are all written or co-written by Mann, anyone who’s fond of Squeeze and those octave-apart vocals by Tifford and Dilbrook has a pleasant surprise waiting for them on this album. While it has contributions from guitar pop figures of the time (mid 90s — Juliana Hatfield, Michael Penn), Tilbrook and Difford are represented, either by Glenn’s guitar or their characteristic backing vocals, on five of the tracks, plus Glenn gets the little hidden squib at the end. ‘Frankenstein’ is virtually a Mann/Difford duet, where we get to hear Chris’s voice paired with one other than Tilbrook’s. So for a Squeeze fan that’s kind of fun. The tuneful mid-tempo guitar pop with smart lyrics may well work for many a Squeeze fan. I’d note that Mann has a co-write on Tilbrook’s The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook solo record from a few years later, at around the same time she released the more highly acclaimed Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo.
Like the Squeeze albums of the 90s, there are too many songs here that are unremarkable. It picks up with the wistful, yet biting, ‘Amateur’, though. Vocal hooks abound, understated but subtly funky percussion helps a few tracks along. It’s very listenable.
Note: While some bits of some songs from here appear in the movie Magnolia, they don’t show up on the sountrack, which is in fact one of Mann’s more well-known recordings and shares tracks with Bachelor No. 2.