Aimee Mann has been in the music business for a long time now, originally starting out in indie band ‘Til Tuesday in the mid-eighties. Throughout her career she has shown she knows how to craft a song, how to create an album that says something. On her ninth solo record, Mental Illness, Mann proves yet again that she hasn’t lost the skill. This is a work that exudes both maturity and sadness which is evident in this largely acoustic body of songs.
‘Goose Snow Cone’ is mellow folk, all melancholy, mood and melody. Mann mines a seam of female folk singers that stretches back to Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. We are in confessional territory and a sense of regret permeates as Mann sings that: ‘Even birds of a feather find it hard to fly’.
‘Stuck in the past’ finds our heroine musing on days gone by. There is a deft melodic touch to the song that adds a life-affirming tone to proceedings. ‘You never loved me’ continues the theme as it is a bitter- sweet song of doomed love: ‘Boy when you go you go- three thousand miles just so I’d know you never loved me’. ‘Rollercoasters’ and ‘Lies of Summer’ are firmly anchored in John Wesley Harding era Dylan with the latter anchored by Mann’s velvety smooth bass guitar played over a sure and steady beat. ‘Patient Zero’ pick up the pace and in doing so creates a more rock/pop vibe.
‘Good for Me’ is a piano led standout track with truly memorable refrain and ‘Philly Sinks’ is a jazzy little jem to be found before ‘Simple Fix’ which sees a full band return to the fray. Mann sings simply of calling a ‘….spade a spade, I’m going nowhere’. The listener can be left in no doubt that this is an album of sadness, loss and regret and indeed it ends on that note with ‘Poor Judge’ which sees the protagonist admit that: ‘Falling for you was a fall off a cliff’. Yet for all that this is an album that is eminently listenable and proves that there is always room for downbeat folk in your collection.