I have always kept an eye open for new female singer-songwriters. In general I am a huge fan of the genre (if you can call it a genre in its own right). But for every good one, there are a handful of bad ones. For every Tori or Alanis, there is a Sandi Thom or a Lucien Silvas (anyone?) So when finding a cassette single in a little indie record shop (two references there showing how long ago this was) of Aimee Mann’ ‘I Should’ve Known’, I wasn’t expecting much. But it was 50p, so I thought I’d give it a listen. What I actually heard, was one of the catchiest, guitar-lead pop songs I’d heard in a long time. Much unbeknown to me at the time, Mann had been around around for a while as singer of ‘Til Tuesday. ‘I Should’ve Known’ was the start of what was to become a long solo career.
The song was the opening track from her solo debut ‘Whatever’. The album followed shortly after the single, and I went out and bought it (on cassette again, of course), excited about what else she had to offer. And I wasn’t to be dissapointed. Each track on the album is great in its own right, put together on to one amazing album. ‘I Should’ve Known ‘ was in no way on its own. More hugely catchy indie-pop anthems followed on, in the shape of ‘Fifty Years After The Fair,’ ‘Could’ve Been Anyone’ and ‘Put Me On Top’. The standard never falls throughout the thirteen tracks included.
The second single from the album came out in the shape of ‘Stupid Thing’, and shows off another side to Aimee Mann. It’s one of several slower songs on the album. And whilst the upbeat tracks on the album show how Aimee can rock, tracks like ‘Jacob Marley’s Chain’ and ‘I Know There’s A Word’ show off a more emotional side. It’s all arranged with perfect balance. ‘4th of July’ is the one that gets me covered in shivers everytime I hear it. It is over twenty years old, and I must have listened to it hundreds of times, but it still gets me every time. It is as powerful now as it was on the first listen. Now that’s what I call great song writing, to create something so timeless and durable.
‘Mr Harris’ is another of those goosebumps inducing tracks. It’s her ability to tell a story through her music that really makes this song what it is. It tells of a love affair with an older men. Lyrically it is probably the best on on the album. She sings ‘ Honestly I may be stupid to think love is love, but I do. Cause you’ve waited so long, and I’ve waited long enough for you.’
It ends with the style it begins with. ‘Way Back When’ is a nostalgic look at a past relationship, starting with excited beginnings, leading to the eventual divorce. All done in a brilliantly way, with everything thrown into it.
Aimee has been responsible for a handful of great albums throughout her career. Her second solo outing ‘I’m With Stupid’ was a worthy follow up. But it’s ‘Whatever’ that will always hold a special place for me. It is one of those albums that really reminds me of my teenage years. I remember playing it over and over again, and quickly become one of those rare albums that I can sing along with word for word, from start to finish.