on 2 May 2014
1985 was the year which marked a downturn in US talent assembling, and never, despite its supreme size, being anywhere near as vital,important or individual to music as the UK and Europe generally, it's main problem was music's antichrist itself-Madonna-queen of the untalented ushering in a new horrible decade of attention-seeking and slut-about-town exhibitionism geared for quick-grab financial reward and public recognition in lieu of any vocal, songwriting or any obvious talent beyond getting what you want cos you scream and suck loud and hard enough to do so, while cannily convincing a generation of Big Mac kids you have what they want. Then there's the other side of the business, the talent part that's supposed to actually drive it, and whilst America seemed almost done, 1985 gave us the Bangles breakthrough, Suzanne Vega, Voice Of The Beehive a few years later, and also, Aimee Mann and the rest of 'Til Tuesday.
Whilst the New Wave scene was presumably long over by 1985, America, always behind the times when it comes to other nation's talents, finally allowed itself to notice this outfit, but sadly, the only way they predictably did it was a showy video for MTV for the second single 'Voices Carry' (the first single 'Love In A Vacuum' was ignored, and remained so when it was re-released as the third and, sadly, final single) from the album of its hugest song's title. Already the label had stuck their oar in over the "controversy" of Mann singing such a song to a WOMAN instead of a man! God, America, but what can you expect? Cyndi Lauper, having just come to prominence herself apparently wanted the song (leaving the gender unchanged) but only if 'Til Tuesday weren't to include it on their album. Stuff that they sensibly said, and I add stick with your "girls having fun" motif.
While the song did real well, and deservedly so, pulling the album into the US Top 20 in its wake, very few seemed to notice how striking it was for such a young girl to be such an expressive, heart-tearing lyricist and such an astute and assured bass player also. Whilst most earlier females tended to be either daft (Go-Gos, Belle Stars) or just plain noisy without hope of melody or emotion (Girlschool, Cramps, Suzi Quatro), Aimee Mann fitted the far more serious New Wave movement of the UK (Kim Wilde, Duran Duran, OMD, Abc, The Human League, Toyah, A Flock Of Seagulls, Blancmange etc.), so why she wasn't promoted over here in the way Grace Jones, Pat Benatar, Blondie or Pretenders were, I'll never know, and can only blame both her US label and us over here for that.
Her voice is cut-glass searing plaintive and heart-rending, but also flies to shrill in places, but would utterly mature in just a year's time for pitch-perfect singing on their second album. The other slight drawback with this album is, while there's generally more synth than there ever would be again, several songs seem to musically draw too near other contemporaries breaking through when they started, hence album track 'No More Crying'-one of the first completed for the album, sounds way too A Flock Of Seagullsy with all their trademark guitar-riffing and echos. But the song is livelier than 'I Could Get Used To This' beforehand, whose chorus is just a little too downbeat to be strictly harmonious and borders on dreary. 'Winning The War' is impressive, but scarily in its make-up is something that would possibly have been given to that horror-harridan Madonna, if a dumb disco backdrop substituted instead, and when Aimee soars with the high notes, I can almost hear her squealing along in that bleating lamb wheeze she relies on, though there's no way such epic emotion and heart-stung words like "You closed that door on happy ever after" and "I know, you know, winning the wars' not winning it all" could ever be utilised by her. But it wouldn't surprise me if you used this album to pinch something from, it's what her whole career is based on, and it not getting challenged or called out.
Whilst the astounding 'Voices Carry' (even better than its landmark video) is the best song here, the gorgeous, heart-tearing spare minimalism of top ballad 'You Know The Rest' with its attendant understated piano chords and modest guitar-work comes a close second with 'Winning The War'. Not there's anything wrong with the other two singles 'Looking Over My Shoulder' and the rudely ignored 'Love In A Vacuum'-both are wrongly ignored pop masterpieces, and beautifully played and written. 'Maybe Monday' and 'Are You Serious' are deceptively peppy, and 'Don't Watch Me Bleed' rocks the heaviest, and she attaches a most frightening "son't get me mad" vocal to it. Chiming ballad 'Sleep' sends the album out in fine form. Both follow-up albums would encroach even further into ultimately grown-up scenarios and arrangements, resulting in an utterly perfect third album, which was sadly to be their last. I recommend buying them all, and how nice this has been updated finally, not that the playing seems much louder or clearer, but it's sad both others have been passed over for the same treatment.
Whilst Ms Mann's solo career has never reached the resulting wow factor all these albums generally gave, there's no doubt she's one of the most important singer/songwriter and bass player that the US ever had the sheer luck to produce and utterly under-appreciate like they do with most of the rare best things they ever have. Strapped to this release is a booklet with a rather detailed and very welcome little history of the album's conception and all its songs and how the main members met, and guitarist Robert Holmes, keyboardist Joey Pesce and drummer Michael Hausman, as I haven't mentioned yet, are an equally vital part of this group. No lyric sheet, sadly, but a detailed flow-through of a great band getting off to a very ace start, coasting through the "difficult second album" routine easily, and then sadly quitting on completion of their 1988 masterpiece, which Pesce had left prior to making and more fool him.
Bands, singers flourish, erupt, regrow, come back, disappear, but their music stays if it truly matters and Voices Carry.