Album: Aimee Mann

The Forgotten Arm, SUPEREGO/V2
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The Independent Culture

On 2002's Lost in Space, Aimee Mann and producer Michael Lockwood devised painstaking, subtle arrangements that enabled each song's copious reserve of regret and resignation to bleed into the listener's consciousness without prompting the equivalent of an allergic reaction. For this follow-up, she and producer Joe Henry have elected to record the tracks with a band in the studio, adopting a uniform retro Seventies "classic rock" sound, built around piano, organ and guitar. There is, supposedly, a story linking the 12 tracks into a song-cycle, following a star-crossed couple from the Seventies to the present day, though there doesn't seem to be much development in their relationship, a co-dependency of two losers who "think sharing the burden will lighten the load". The familiar Mann tropes are rehearsed again, a parade of shame, emotional impotence, desire to escape, and melancholy that only lifts towards the end, on the almost positive "Clean up for Christmas". But the album's dominant tone is mapped out elsewhere in lines such as, "Maybe there's something wrong with me that I can't see", and, "Life just kind of empties out." Sadly, the bland, AOR sound doesn't illuminate the material and isn't decorative enough to sustain interest through such a run of glum songs.