21 June 2005

i can't help you anymore : aimee mann

click here to listen
listening time: 4m 52s

i've been trying to like the forgotten arm, aimee mann's latest album, but i can't get past my initial feeling of 'what the hell?' it could be the whole concept of the album. i just can't connect with it. the forgotten arm -- which mann dedicates to "the alcoholic and addict who still suffers" -- follows the relationship of a carnival performer and a down-on-his-luck boxer that begins just before the latter is sent off to war in vietnam. he comes back addicted, and the circus performer has been trying to find a way out of the relationship since. each song is a chapter that unravels disillusionment, despair and ultimately, doom. these themes already make for a strong material that would appeal to those who agree that the most interesting relationships are inherently complex and all too often tragic. but in writing each song, mann forces too much creativity and achieves the opposite. we're distracted by too much meter and rhyme for their own sake, that they end up being a constraint to, instead of a form of, story-telling.
once somebody stationed in kuala lumpur
said he thought you went out but he couldn't be sure.
- dear john

you pulled up and parked your el dorado
we said "hi" and kissed with some bravado
- beautiful
nice. now in your next effort, can we please have less of these silly rhymes and more of the grown-up perspective you demonstrated in the following songs, which are the best moments of the album?
was i the bullet or the gun
or just a target drawn upon
a wall that you decided wasn't worth defending?
- i can't help you anymore

life just kind of empties out
less a deluge than a drought
less a giant mushroom cloud than an unexploded shell
- little bombs
the forgotten arm, a boxing reference to an unexpected punch from what was perceived as the opponent's weaker arm, comes after mann's four consistently excellent studio outputs. although as a concept album it explores and successfully demonstrates mann's dark and twisted view of relationships, no track stands out the way save me did in the soundtrack she created for the film magnolia, or lost in space from her album of the same name. ah, but maybe it'll grow on me after a few more listens.

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