From the opening of "Long Shot," with its rolling hip-hop-derived beat and its nonchalant profanity, it's clear that Aimee Mann is trying to appeal to a wider audience with her second solo album, I'm With Stupid. Taking her cues from Liz Phair and Beck, she adds alternative rock flourishes to her music but never abandons her love of the basic, three-minute pop single. Mann builds from the more pop-oriented songs on Whatever, incorporating her confessional singer/songwriter instincts into the pop songs while working with a more adventerous production and instrumentation. Occasionally, the fusion is a bit awkward, but the best moments on I'm With Stupid -- the sighing "Choice in the Matter," the nearly perfect "That's Just What You Are," featuring backing vocals by Glenn Tilbrook, and the Bernard Butler collaboration "Sugarcoated" -- surpass even the best moments on Whatever. However, I'm With Stupid falls short of matching Mann's debut for consistent song quality -- there are several tracks that are pleasant but simply don't lead anywhere. Nevertheless, the album confirms that she is a distinctive, talented songwriter. At her best, she is as capable of melding melody with intelligent lyrics as her idols Elvis Costello, Difford/Tilbrook, and Ray Davies.
I'm with Stupid Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine