Aimee Mann : Mental Illness
Given its startling title, one might imagine that Aimee Mann’s Mental Illness is a slow slog through some distinctly difficult thematic territory. Certainly it’s true that Mann has earned her reputation as a peddler of grief, and her best songs are underpinned by a heady dose of the distraught. But even when the singer/songwriter is at her most moribund, she never seems to advocate surrender, and her bleakness is often a roundabout way of reaffirming life itself.
In that way, Mental Illness is not the dark, traumatised trip one might expect. Though the instrumentation is sparse, and Mann’s piercing voice does its standard emotive, effective work, this is not an album designed to sob over the top of. Tracks like Lies Of Summer and Goose Snow Cone have a lilting, carnival-esque quality to them, and though no track is exactly upbeat per se, neither are they defeated. “Life is good,” Mann sings on Patient Zero – and she sounds like she means it, too.
Too strange to be pigeonholed as a singer/songwriter’s sob story; too dark to be dismissed as a Beatles-esque set of pop ballads, Mental Illness is unique in the truest sense in the world, a record that could be assembled by nobody but Mann.
By Joseph Earp