A year on the shelf left Mann needing some sort of release


Aimee Mann is highly amused by the notion that she shouldn't be angry.

She's on the phone from her new home in Los Angeles, talking about her new album, "I'm With Stupid," and how it wound up sitting on the shelf for a full year as record company executives argued over how it should be handled. And she's laughing.

"My manager, among various people, has started to object to the overwhelming tone of bitterness that I apparently have taken in interviews," she says, laughing. "So I'm trying to find a way to tell the tale without sounding bitter." She laughs again. "Which, of course, I am."

She straightens up for a moment, and tells the tale. "The short version is that Imago, my record company, went out of business, and my record and my contract were still owned by the president of Imago [Terry Ellis]. There was a lot of time spent disagreeing about what should happen to the record."

It took a full year, in fact, before the album was released on her current label, Geffen. During that time, other deals fell through for a variety of reasons, much to Mann's annoyance and the confusion of music magazines (a few of which actually ran reviews last spring, thinking the album's release was imminent).

For Mann, it was an enormously frustrating time. "The most difficult thing, besides the fact that you're just not generating anything that could translate into eventual income, is that you think that at any moment, something's going to happen," she says. "So I spent a year not making plans, which is extremely annoying. You don't do anything, and so you feel unbelievably unproductive. As well as being irritated at just the fact that you have no record out.

"It's just like one, big doctor's waiting room, and the only magazine is Highlights," she says with a laugh. "For a year, you're just reading Highlights. Had you known, you might have run down the street to get a paper!"

Fortunately, things are going much better for Mann. "I'm With Stupid" hit the U.K. market in October and was greeted with rave reviews, making several music magazine Albums of the Year lists. The critical response in this country has been equally enthusiastic, hailing the album for its bittersweet choruses, wry lyrics and inventive production.

In particular, Mann has been praised for her ability to make Beatlesque melodies seem completely contemporary, fleshing out classic guitar pop songs, such as "That's Just What You Are" and "Long Shot," with funky, fatback drums.

"I have to say that I'm probably as influenced as anyone by stuff that's around," she says. "If you know that Beck's 'Mellow Gold' was a big favorite record of mine while I was writing songs for this record, then it's probably not that surprising to hear drums that sound like loops. They actually aren't loops, but they sound like loops and were recorded to sound like that."

So does this mark a stylistic shift for her as a songwriter? "I don't know," she answers. "I don't know what to think about the whole idea of styles. My thing is, write good songs. Then whatever treatment it has, if the song is good enough, it should still have a timeless quality."

Aimee Mann

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: The Bayou

Tickets: $15

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (202) 333-2897 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Aimee Mann's new release, "I'm with Stupid," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the XTC four-digit code 6130. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

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