’til tuesday was formed in Boston in 1982, by singer / lyricist / bassist Aimee Mann, late of the Young Snakes. She was joined by drummer Michael Hausman, guitarist Robert Holmes, and keyboard player Joey Pesce. The quartet took the town by storm, winning the 1983 WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble and quickly landing a deal with Epic records. With a slick but distinctive New Wave sound and Mann’s earthy vocals and smart lyrics, the band got a lot of early press and a nice push from the label. Their first single, Voices Carry, was inspired by Mann and Hausman’s breakup just before recording the album. Dark and haunting but carrying a human warmth with Mann’s delivery, it became a hit [#8, 1983] and a mainstay of 80s radio. ’til tuesday wasn’t interested in repeating a formula, however successful, and their second release, Welcome Home, found Mann writing more of the music herself while the group pursued a richer, more complex sound. Critics loved it, but the public was less interested. Pesce left the group, replaced by Michael Montes. Struggling with pursuing her artistic vision while satisfying label expectations, Mann found herself in the midst of another breakup. Her two-year relationship with singer/songwriter Jules Shear came to an end just as she began writing tracks for the band’s third — and final, as it turned out — album.
While Mann has stated firmly that not every track was inspired by the circumstances with Shear, some clearly are (see track 4…), and she has said that it is the most intimate of her early work. Ironically, it’s also her most collaborative, with a number of writers from outside the band pitching in. The result is a heartfelt breakup album that is also powerfully human, blending personal pain with universal themes to create one of the best albums of the 80s and a launching pad for an amazing independent career.
Things kick off with the only ’til tuesday song not written by Aimee Mann, the album’s title track. Penned by power pop rising star Matthew Sweet with Jules Shear, it’s a stirring farewell to a fading relationship. Mann turns in one of her best tuesday vocals, showing off a range she seldom explores and making the most of the emotional energy. It’s followed by one of her own best songs, Rip In Heaven, written with British bassist and singer Kit Hain. Painfully honest, it also charts an ending, reflecting on the contributions both partners make on the path to dissolution. Wrenching and anthemic at once, it’s a small pop masterpiece. Continuing in the reflective tone, Mann allows herself some space to grieve in Why Must I?, a nice look at coping skills — or the lack of them — featuring the fine lyric “Other people get by with either bourbon or God.” This opening trio is a strong statement of purpose, three different, equally compelling looks at endings.
The next track is the most clearly related to Mann’s personal circumstances, the wistful, moving ‘J’ for Jules. With an unflinching, open spirit, she unpacks the relationship with a mixture of sadness and hope, believing “Someday we’ll be happy again,” apart rather than together. Side one wraps with a rare Mann/Shear songwriting credit, (Believed You Were) Lucky. Another reflective piece, this takes a second person view, wondering why a departing partner couldn’t find their own value in the relationship. The pair work well together tying up the emotional weight of the side.
Side two opens with a bit of a departure, the story song Limits to Love, which looks at a self-destructive young woman and the point at which those who care for her must step back. It’s great pop track that changes the focus of the album but still fits the overall tone. Things get personal again with the Mann / Hausman composition Long Gone (Buddy). A darkly introspective song, it finds Mann singing about the difficulties of letting go. With a slow build and a soaring chorus — also featuring some nice vocal work — it picks up the energy musically while hewing to the contemplative feel.
Mann composed The Other End (of the Telescope) with Elvis Costello, a surprising pairing that works extremely well. (Costello enjoyed the song enough to rework it on his later album with the Attractions, All This Useless Beauty.) Mann’s wistful humanity nicely tempers Costello’s barbed wit, creating a perfect I-guess-I-never-really-knew-you song. Their voices blend beautifully, making this a highlight of both careers. Crash and Burn finds Mann and Hain crafting a brilliant post-New Wave anthem, featuring a stirring keyboard line and a bold vocal. With determination, Mann insists on breaking away from the darkest parts of the dissolving relationship. Biting but very human, it’s a perfect conclusion to the break-up themes. How Can You Give Up? adds a cautiously optimistic coda to the proceedings, offering hope for a future love even amidst the rubble of the previous. It’s a smart move, making the most of the album’s overall humanity and giving a welcome bright spot that still resonates with honesty.
Lyrically, Everything’s Different Now is a strong leap forward for Aimee Mann, presaging her future solo work. Musically, she and the band continue to move away from their New Wave beginnings into an early Indie Rock with Power Pop elements. It’s a potent sound that brings all their talents together in a tight, cohesive mix. Darkly personal and reflective, passionately universal in theme, this ten song journey is compelling, sonically satisfying, and ultimately cathartic.
FURTHER LISTENING: Inspired by this more personal work, Mann dissolved the band and began a solo career, slightly delayed by contract problems with Epic — her first of several battles with labels that led her to become a pioneer in independent releasing. All three ’til tuesday discs are worthwhile; Voices Carry is the least consistent but still a distinctive New Wave disc and Welcome Home is a wonderful set of songs by a group growing together. The compilation Coming Up Close features sixteen songs and provides a very good overview of the band’s work.
Mann’s solo work is centered on her smart, often wistful lyrics, quietly earthy vocals, and distinctly melodic song craft. All eight albums have wonderful songs. The finest is Lost In Space, another cohesive, literate meditation on the human condition. Her strong but somewhat inconsistent first two discs — Whatever and I’m With Stupid — are summarized nicely on Ultimate Collection, which also features some rarities and other gems. All the other albums are quite worthwhile, with Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo and @#%&*! Smilers rising above the pack.