ROCKWiRED REWiND: AiMEE MANN - BACHELOR NO. 2 (2000)
t was only the summer of 2000 and already the new millennium felt like a bust. It was my first full year out of college and my days were spent working various temp jobs and my evenings were devoted to playing in a band I had started. Starting a band was what I had wanted to do the most once I got out of college and I had already prepared myself for having to work some job I didn't like in order to help make that silly rock n roll dream a reality. I was young and I knew I could do it but eventually the band broke up after an ugly fistfight and all I was left with was strumming on an acoustic guitar, working a job I hated and drinking too much. Oh 1999 was supposed to be a launching point for me but the last notch of the 20th century wasn't the party that PRINCE predicted. Hell, even STAR WARS came back and that sucked. I complain in retrospect but no one had any idea of the horrors that were just around the corner in terms of a terrorist attack and the shitty millennium that has ensued. At least BLONDIE got back together.
In retrospect a lot of my dissatisfaction with the time had a lot to do with the excitement of being an adult wearing thin. What's fun about paying rent and paying bills and slacking your way through a job? I tried to make it all worthwhile by writing new songs and doing coffeehouse gigs on my own, but it didn't seem to help with feeling cut off from what everyone else around me seemed tapped into – a life that was exciting. And my romantic life was a big, confusing mess. Matters of the heart became a lot more complicated and relationships ended in a mess of alcohol, nightclubs and cigarette smoke – all of the tastes and smells I've come to miss in this global pandemic.
was at one of my temp jobs as a PBX
operator at a children's hospital where I had a revelation. I was
flipping through an OSCAR preview issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY between
incoming calls and read up on the nominees. I remember
absolutely nothing that was nominated that year but when I came
across the section for Best Song nominations, I noticed AIMEE MANN
was nominated for her song SAVE ME from the P.T. ANDERSON film
MAGNOLIA – a film that on the surface didn't look as engaging as
BOOGIE NIGHTS and when I rented the thing on VHS I learned that I was
right. Anyway, I found the woman's OSCAR nomination intriguing.
MANN was not a name unknown to
me. As a child of the eighties I remember the song and music video
VOICE'S CARRY by her old band TIL' TUESDAY, but that was the limit of
what I knew of that band's musical output. I remember being
captivated by the tall, angular, blonde singer whose punk/new wave
look brought to mind DARYL HANNAH's renegade robot character PRIS
from BLADE RUNNER. The strutting, synth tinged pop tune told the tale
of a young woman hushed into silence by an asshole boyfriend. In the
music video, MANN was an actress in song living under the tyranny of
some black tie/white shirt boyfriend who disapproved of her music
making and wanted sex when he wanted it. It is at the video''s
conclusion that MANN – the new wave heroine – finds her voice in
the balcony of an opera house and sends her villainous beau into
retreat. Sadly that was all that my 10 year old self knew of TIL'
TUESDAY. VOICES CARRY was a single off their 1985 debut album of the
same name. The band would release two more albums, WELCOME HOME
(1986) and EVERYTHING'S DIFFERENT NOW (1988), before disbanding.
AIMEE MANN's name came up again during my college years when she
released the critically acclaimed albums WHATEVER (1993) and I'M WITH
STUPID (1995).I only knew of her songwriting genius through reviews
in all of the cool music magazines of that time. I was a college
student on a budget.
THE MUSiC VIDEO FOR VOiCES CARRY BY TiL' TUESDAY!!!
can't explain why SAVE ME was a song
that I wanted to get a hold of. Perhaps it was her 1970's fashion
model look with the long blonde hair and that very piercing gaze of
hers that she put to fine use on the video for VOICES CARRY fifteen
years earlier. SAVE ME had some airplay on my favorite local station
but not a lot so I bought the soundtrack to MAGNOLIA from BORDERS.
Not only was I surprised to learn that the soundtrack was mostly
performances by MANN, I also learned that the P.T. ANDERSON film was
written as a result of this sturdy collection of MANN songs and two
SUPERTRAMP songs, much like how the music of SIMON AND GARFUNKEL had
informed the MIKE NICHOLS film THE GRADUATE. The soundtrack to
MAGNOLIA was my first collection of AIMEE MANN songs I had ever
listened to and I fell in love. It ended up not surprising me that
MANN's music could inspire the writing of a film given the kind of
cinematic quality that her music boasts. Songs such as DEATHLY,
DRIVING SIDEWAYS, and YOU DO would go on to be featured on the album
in which I'm getting to in this article and those songs will be
addressed, but this soundtrack album stands on its own starting with
a haunting cover of HARRY NILSSON's ONE followed by the MANN original
MOMENTUM which is built on almost the same bluesy march as ONE. And
then of course there is SAVE ME, my reason for becoming invested in
the artist in the first place. The plaintive tune opens up with a
minor chord progression strummed on an acoustic guitar accompanied by
strings. With her her first breathy lyric, MANN paints the picture of
a broken figure who could use a friend – or at the very least a
tourniquet. Two years earlier, alternative rock began embracing more
of a sensitive songwriting approach that made stuff like SARAH
McLACHLAN and her LILITH FAIR such a success. One could argue that by
the turn of the century the acoustic driven songwriter approach was
behind the times in a market full of teen pop and LIMP BIZKIT, but
the sentiment of a song like SAVE ME was leaps and bounds above other
alternative rock songwriters. Let's see JEWEL use a word like
“radium” in a lyric as MANN does at SAVE ME's fiery bridge. The
song and the accolades signaled a return for MANN to wider public
consciousness yet I'm scratching my head at why she lost the OSCAR
for Best Song to PHIL COLLINS for some animated TARZAN shit.
THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR SAVE ME!!!
OSCAR or no OSCAR, MANN's increased profile and notoriety helped to shine a light on her career-long quest for autonomy. In the late nineties, MANN was signed to INTERSCOPE RECORDS and had an album already in the can, but the guys from corporate didn't feel that the album was commercial enough for release so the album – which would later become BACHELOR NO. 2 OR, THE LAST REMAINS OF THE DODO – ended up being shelved. In the the couple of years that followed, MANN sought to end her relationship with INTERSCOPE and buy her master recordings back. MANN was subsequently let go from INTERSCOPE and buying back her masters cost a reported six figures. That is one hell of a price for independence but when you consider that twenty years later, MANN is still in the game and still releasing music independently, you can't put a price on artistry. MANN along with former TIL' TUESDAY drummer MICHAEL HAUSSMAN formed MANN's own label SUPEREGO RECORDS and the once shelved album – BACHELOR NO. 2 OR, THE LAST REMAINS OF THE DODO – became a surprise hit in internet sales with 25,000 copies sold and with no major label big wigs eating into the profits.
n a time when boy bands were breaking album sales records and rock sales were languishing, BACHELOR NO. 2 was a release that gave hope to music makers and listeners who craved something more than such juvenilia as NSYNC's BYE BYE BYE. The album cover for NSYNC's album NO STRINGS ATTACHED seemed to indicate that the TIMBERLAKE and the gang were breaking free of being controlled by their porky manager even though I don't think the album signaled the kind of emancipation that the boy band wanted critics and fans to believe. MANN's emancipation was the real thing and BACHELOR NO. 2 was its proclamation – a collection of 13 songs that boast literate and wry lyrics and the kind of grand musical approach that hasn't been appreciated since the days of THE BEATLES or BACHARACH – the latter of whom is a major influence on the sound and feel of this album. Produced by MANN along with JON BRION, MIKE DENNEEN, BUDDY JUDGE and BRENDAN O'BRIEN, BACHELOR NO. 2 not only examined the low points of love and life with unparalleled musicality and elegance, it also let consumers know for the first time that independently released music was something to take seriously. For me, the album was an inspirational feat. It gave me hope as a struggling songwriter trying to make a dent in the music world at the time despite always coming up short, but on a personal level, BACHELOR NO. 2 was an album that made me feel like an adult. Was I supposed to hear anything meaningful in SMASHMOUTH, SUGAR RAY or BLINK 182? And don't get me started on MATCHBOX 20. It was great to sink into some rather sophisticated pop music that dissected human relationships and emotions in an honest way and because of that, BACHELOR NO. 2 gets a big fucking gold star.
HOW AM I DIFFERENT?
NOTHING IS GOOD ENOUGH
THE FALL OF THE WORLD'S
DEATHLY was a song featured on the soundtrack for MAGNOLIA. Its opening line, “Now that I've met you would you object never seeing each other again!”, was even spoken in the film by MELORA WALTERS' character. It sounded lame on screen but in song, what better way was there to kick a blistering ballad off into orbit. DEATHLY eschews the classy pop approach for a rootsier sound until a scorching guitar solo sends the song into power ballad territory and that's not a bad thing. I would actually put this number about getting out of the hot seat of romance above the OSCAR-nominated SAVE ME.
CALLING IT QUITS
ith 25,000 copies sold via the internet, MANN's BACHELOR NO. 2 was making a stir in a music industry that was coming up on a time marked by file sharing and all of huffing and puffing over NAPSTER. The devaluing of music was something many saw on the horizon and flying in the face of that were the unexpected sales of MANN's maiden voyage as a music entrepreneur with the launch of her own SUPEREGO RECORDS. Guys like me who had no internet connection just yet (it was 2000, give me a break!) had to wait for for the album to be available in stores and thanks to a distribution deal through V2, BACHELOR NO. 2 finally hit stores and sold over 200,000 copies. In 2008, NIELSEN SOUNDSCAN confirmed that the album has sold 230,000 copies. And of course critical acclaim was everywhere. I'll start with ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S A- review.
“Mann’s voice — a warm breeze with a cool undercurrent — can still be too imperturbable for her own good, and I kept wondering if ”Satellite” would have sounded more transcendent sung by Dionne Warwick. Still, Bachelor No. 2 is a reminder of how pleasurable it is to hear a singer simply sing and not overexert herself. If you’re of the mind that the barbarians are at the gates of pop, the album will be the sound of salvation. If you don’t feel that way, Bachelor No. 2 can still be appreciated on its own modest terms: as an attractive magnolia in a forest of many different, and equally appealing, trees.”
often-gushing DAVE WILD of ROLLING
STONE said this in his four-star interview:
NO. 2 is the album that found its place on my CD rack between THE
BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM and the first ever PRETENDERS album. It was a
go-to album for me during the the more chaotic moments of this
relatively new century. With MANN's artistry and entrepreneurship right
where she wanted it, I was more than looking forward to her follow up
album. Unfortunately, 2002's LOST IN SPACE didn't move me in the same
way, but the NPR crowd and all of the right publications showered
critical hosannas on the thing. Five albums have been released
since LOST IN SPACE and all of them were through MANN's SUPEREGO
RECORDS so MANN's endeavor needs to a applauded. She'even won some
GRAMMYS along the way. One was for BEST RECORDING PACKAGE for the 2006
album THE FORGOTTEN ARM and the other was for BEST FOLK ALBUM for her
2018 album MENTAL ILLNESS. MANN is control of the music career that she
has always wanted. I haven't explored all of the other recordings from
the SUPEREGO catalog after LOST IN SPACE, but BACHELOR NO. 2 will hold
that special place in my heart for its lyrical and musical
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