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Bachelor No. 2

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Bachelor No. 2

Artist: Aimee Mann
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: March 2000

Review by LarryG
2 stars out of 4

If you're a big fan of Aimee Mann's very good songs on the Magnolia soundtrack and are eager for new, mellow music from her, you'll probably like Bachelor No. 2. If not, save your money. Bachelor No. 2 is more tasteful, adult pop but it's hardly ground breaking.

Mann made Bachelor No. 2 long before the release of the Magnolia soundtrack. Interscope Records refused to release Bachelor No. 2, claiming it wasn't commercial. Mann bought back the rights to the record and made it available through her website. Her travails got her a lot of publicity and the success of the Magnolia soundtrack made distribution of Bachelor No. 2 possible. However, Magnolia also made Bachelor No.2 a less necessary purchase. Three of the songs from Bachelor No. 2(Deathly, Driving Sideways and You Do) were on Magnolia and a fourth(Nothing Is Good Enough) was on in an instrumental version. The Magnolia soundtrack, with its recurring juxtaposition of the futility of, and the human need for, pursuing love had a coherence in its sadness that is lacking on the new CD.

Among my favorite Aimee Mann solo work is her more rocking Beatlesque and Byrdsy music from her solo debut Whatever. Her Magnolia songs were so well written that I didn't mind their mellowness. The Bachelor No. 2 songs are generally not as striking as the most vivid Magnolia songs(Save Me, Wise Up and Momentum) and are sometimes a little boring. Bachelor No. 2 does best when Mann spices things up a little. Red Vines, with Mann sadly observing a doomed relationship, gets a good edge from a drum machine and subtle contributions from guitarist Michael Lockwood and Patrick Warren, the long time keyboard player for Mann's husband Michael Penn. After Red Vines, the CD really runs out of gas. Mann reunites with Elvis Costello, with whom she wrote The Other End of the Telescope, for The Fall of the World's Own Optimism. It's funny to think of cynics like Mann and Costello as optimists but the lyrics have a good touch of Costello's distinctively twisted verbiage like "guess I thought you were a golden idol 'cause I called you majesty." However, the music doesn't do much interesting. Neither does it on the polite waltz Satelite. Ghost World has a good story of a bright graduate with absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of her life but the music is pretty pedestrian. On Calling It Quits, Mann works overtime creating metaphors but to little effect. Just Like Anyone is an effective elegy, with Mann wondering if she could have helped a doomed friend but, preceded by so many other subdued songs, it doesn't have the power it might have in a different context. After a long patch of slow, quiet songs Susan, the most energetic song on Bachelor No. 2, is a relief. Susan has a breezy mood with its shuffling beat and good guitar riff. Mann's writing, telling a friend that she was right in saying a romance wouldn't work, is appealingly relaxed and conversational. But after Susan, It Take All Kinds takes the record back to a laid back tone with a self righteous story of a friend who sold his soul for success. As in various points of the record, the writing is a little precious and showy: "as we were speaking of the devil, you walked right in/wearing hubris like a medal you revel in/but it's me at whom you'll level your javellin."

It's good that, in a time when most big selling CDs are mindless pop, Aimee Mann has had success with mature, thoughtful music. Bachelor No. 2 is carefully made, adult pop. Now that Mann has reestablished her career and found a new set of baby boomer fans, it might be time to give things a little more of an edge.



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