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Old 09-03-2013, 02:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Aimee Mann - Lost In Space (2002)

Back in the summer of 2002 I was trying to make a go at self employment, making CD's out of vinyl records. It was exceedingly labor intensive, it could take all day of constant work to turn out maybe a couple/three CD's (I won't go into detail here but my finished work was simply extraordinary if I do say so myself, maybe I'll discuss this in another thread sometime). So my time for recreational listening was severely shortened. Additionally, in 2002 online music streaming sites had yet to fully develop and in fact were in their infancy (and no wonder, at that time most people, myself included, were still on dial-up, streaming ANYTHING was a difficult proposition, it could take two/three minutes just to download an 80kb image). At the time I was exploring new music by checking out CD's at the library.

Sometime in late summer of that year I checked out Aimee Mann's Lost In Space for a listen. But I was chest-deep in a huge transfer project (the ENTIRE Firesign Theater catalog) and didn't get to it for weeks. Weeks turned into months, and I was getting nastygrams from the library who understandably wanted the CD back. So as I wrapped up the Firesign project (one of the final such labors, I gave up on the idea & went back to a regular job) I decide that I'd better play this CD before I return it. I put it in my home stereo and spin it.

Once I got the new job, I put my own newly acquired copy of Lost In Space in a portable walkman-type CD player and listened to it on the bus to and from work. That was September of 2002. I finally took it out sometime in 2004. I was that spun out on this gloriously melancholic album.

Lost In Space has a theme, at least in the incredible first third of the album. That theme is drug addiction, from the point of view of the person watching the addicted person crumble. To this day I don't know what brought this on, she was and is (to the best of my knowledge) happily married to Michael Penn, who's clearly not the subject of these songs. I've only read or heard a few interviews about this theme and she wasn't really forthcoming about it, but whatever inspired her to write these songs, the sense of emotional pain and shipwreck frustration is palpable.

The opening track is "Humpty Dumpty" (who as you recall couldn't be put back together again)

"all the perfect drugs and superheroes / wouldn't be enough to bring me up to zero"

The next track is the incredible "High On Sunday 51"

The lyrics to this song are so rich with double entendre and wordplay it's hard to know where to begin. Well, not really, lets look at the opening lines

"A monkey knows how you'll react
Creating want by holding back
Some reverse pyromaniac
Let me try, baby, try"

(emphasis mine)

I marvel at the reverse pyromaniac concept, she's frantically putting OUT fires, of course in the metaphorical sense.

Then the chorus:

"Baby please let me begin
Let me be your heroine
Hate the sinner but love the sin
Let me be your heroin"

I intentionally used different spellings of the bolded words, these are homophones, words with the same pronunciation but with different spellings and different meanings. Clearly the words "heroine" and "heroin" have totally different meanings...but do they within the context of this song? Not really. The metaphor works the same either way. This is one of the most brilliant play on words I've ever heard, although she does this throughout Lost In Space.

The next verse uses the shipwreck theme to chilling effect

"We have crossed the rubicon
The ship awash our rudder gone
The rats have fled but I'm hanging on
Let me try, baby, try"

The chorus is repeated with extra vocal harmony, the effect is that of begging, pleading to allow her to rescue this lost soul.

This theme of rescuing the lost soul becomes that of frustration, on the edge of giving up, with the title track. Please ignore this distracting amateur video and focus on the song

...which leads to the acceptance of the lost cause with "This Is How It Goes"

She's not done with the themes of desperation, not by a long shot, but she takes a break from it in the center of the album.

"Guys Like Me" seems to take a swipe at men of privilege (record company execs?) who may earn a lot of money but don't know the first thing about living

The closest thing to an upbeat moment occurs next, "Pavlov's Bell" was intended to be the single from Lost In Space, but it's still full of sardonic bite and cynicism

Then she gives someone a big painful reality check with "Real Bad News"

Her lyric writing here is simply astounding.

But even better is "Invisible Ink". This might be my favorite Aimee Mann song, ever

IMO this is songwriting perfected. It's so well written I could isolate any lyric here as example of masterful wordsmanship. I was in utter awe of this when I first spun it in September of 2002 and continue to be to this day.

With "Today's The Day" the theme of the lost soul picks back up.

This continues "The Moth", such a perfect metaphor for the lost soul I'm shocked I've never heard anyone else use it (although I'm sure someone has)

I'm glad these two videos have the lyrics on screen. I wish all these videos did.

Then the stunning conclusion, "It's Not". Lyrics. My god these lyrics.

If it sounds like I"m just a drooling Aimee Mann fan, well, I liked a lot of her work leading up to Lost In Space, especially from the Magnolia soundtrack, and I liked some of her follow up album The Forgotten Arm, but I feel she somewhat jumped the shark with TFA, leaning on the gimmick of the concept album. And she cleared that shark with room to spare when she followed that with a Christmas album (ick). But Lost In Space attains a highpoint almost no one in music ever achieves IMO. It would easily make my top ten albums I've ever heard, and no other Aimee Mann album would crack the top 100. Or maybe even 200. I should know, I listened to it practically nonstop for the better part of two years.
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Last edited by Paul Smeenus; 09-04-2013 at 01:06 AM.
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