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.