Thursday, June 5, 2008
“I don't know if you'd be particularly interested in hearing anything about me. My life, I mean... Most of it doesn't add up to much that I could relate as a way of life that you'd approve of... I'd like to be able to tell you why, but I don't really... I mean, I move around a lot because things tend to get bad when I stay. And I'm looking... for auspicious beginnings, I guess...”
-Bobby Dupee, Five Easy Pieces-
"The patrons at the bar in Lexington, Kentucky once sprung for every drink you downed but things the way they are, it's not the kind of party if what you've got just might be going around."
-Aimee Mann, "Ballantines"
I was two days into my twentieth year when Aimee Mann released her first solo album, Whatever, on May 11th 1993. I was in my sophomore year of college and had just transferred from Western Kentucky University to the University Of Kentucky to escape a dreadfully dull town and a damaging relationship.
I had been aware of Aimee during the eighties via her time with Til Tuesday, but wouldn’t have guessed that hot summer of 93 that it would be her first solo platter that would help guide me out from under the particular cloud that had been hanging over me in the early part of the nineties. Her music and lyrics quickly became like a much needed sweet and supportive friend that helped me through a rather rough time and Whatever was rarely out of my player as I effectively ‘found myself’ in the mid nineties.
And so it went…every few years or so Aimee Mann would release a devastating collection of songs that would seemingly arrive every time I felt spiritually distressed and in trouble. This was particularly true in the spring of 2000 when the remarkable Bachelor No. 2 arrived at the most particularly shell shocked time of my life (thanks Dad) and once again her astonishingly knowing lyrics and wonderfully melodic music acted as some sort of potent healing tonic for what was an admittedly shattered psyche.
Aimee Mann’s new album, the delightfully titled @#%&*! Smilers, came out earlier this week and while the collection finds me in a much better place than I was in the summer of 93 or spring of 2000, I can already feel it helping an unexplained feeling of sadness that has been following me around lately.
Like all of the truly great artists that came before her, Aimee Mann’s music has a slow burn affect. Anyone not willing to give each album time will no doubt fail to fall under her particularly powerful spell and yet I can already say that @#%&*! Smilers is one of Aimee’s greatest works. It finds her at the peak that many people thought she reached with Lost in Space five years ago, and the fact that the new album literally ends in the town I discovered Aimee in back in 93 makes it particularly resonate for me.
So what is that frustrating and nagging feeling that has been plaguing me lately? I really don’t know but I know that it has something to do with this line off of the new album’s chilling “31 Today”:
“I thought my life would be different somehow, I thought my life would be better by now.”
Perhaps I am just experiencing what a lot of people do in their mid thirties who are unable to answer the question, “What do you want to do?” and while this album may not answer it for me it is at least already providing a certain familiar and comforting shoulder that I can rest my eternally questioning head on. @#%&*! Smilers reminds me of who I used to be and who I've become...and it makes me want to hang on to both.
On a side note to this more personal post than usual...someone just emailed me a link to Mojo's review of the new album in which they honor it with their rather rare Five star (Classic) rating...I'm very please to see this and congratulations to Aimee.