Whatever is the first, and most played, Aimee Mann album I have ever owned. It’s one of those albums that’s accompanied me through my life ever since I first bought a CD copy from Tower Records, in 1993. Whatever has been one of the soundtracks of my life through so many chapters, and plot twists. Through the years the songs on this album have taken turns being my favorite, my most relevant, my most painful. I’ve listened to this album on two cross-country moves, during three break-ups, and while writing a few chapters of a novel I will someday finish (I hope).
Aimee Mann – Whatever (1993)
Album Review – February 7, 2011
I’ve been very lucky and have gotten to see Aimee Mann play live three times, and two of those three times she sang a few of my favorites off of Whatever. The most memorable was the acoustic set she performed in Chicago a few years back. She sang stripped down, acoustic versions of both “Fourth Of July” (my all-time favorite track off the album) and “I’ve Had It.”
“Fourth of July” reminds me of a past relationship that collapsed in on itself, and the regrets and bittersweet memories that lingered afterward, like the cloying smell and smoke that sticks around after fireworks light up the sky on Independence Day. There’s this sense of freedom that explodes from our insides when we finally leave something broken, but there are pieces of things, of feelings, and photographs that stay, trapped beneath our skin, just like shrapnel after a war. And those spots in us, they still sting, even years later.
“I’ve Had It” is one of those songs that still hurt to hear. Maybe it always will sting, no matter the time that’s passed. There are too many images in the lyrics that play out like a slideshow on the insides of my eyelids. They come to life, flickering away, as soon as I close my eyes and listen. It isn’t the story that’s being sung. Not exactly. I don’t have a band break-up to recall from my past. But, I’ve had break-ups that were bigger than a one-on-one relationship. The kind that costs you a community of friends, and a place that felt like home. As you walk away you feel a different sort of moving on, with bigger things you’ll have to try to remember, or learn to forget. I think everyone experiences a loss like that at least once in their lives. Their own version of a band breaking-up, or an end of a personal era.
The opening track, “I Should’ve Known”, reminds me of the mid-90’s and the re-defining times that I found myself in, back then. The song brings back images of a patchwork dress I used to wear over crushed velvet tights, the taste of Marlboro lights, and the way the salty sea air felt in the middle of the night. Or would it have been morning by then? Back when we’d sit by the shore together, just past Newport Beach, the world seeming timeless, and never-ending. Full of promise and adventures. I made a series of mistakes back then. Some successes, too, I’d like to think.
I wonder what new memories this album will join in on, and what I’ll write about Whatever a year from now, or two years, or ten?