‘Til Tuesday accomplished something remarkable: they released three albums, each better and less successful than the previous.
Their first album, Voices Carry, was not that different from other things on the radio at that time. It was a good album with better songwriting than most New Wave. But it was also kind of generic with the production not matching the emotional core of the material. Plus Aimee Mann’s vocals on the album sounded somewhat artificial and very affected.
Their second album, Welcome Home, went in a very different direction. it was more personal and less electronic. The songwriting was also greatly improved. In fact, I’d say the songwriting is as good as anything Mann has produced since.
The sorta title track, “Coming Up Close,” was a revelation. A repeated theme in Mann’s work is that it’s dangerous to let people know what you feel. This is what “Voices Carry” is about in its most pure form. But in “Coming Up Close,” she suggests that our emotions are all laid bare regardless and being concrete about them only makes our foolishness clear to the world.
Don’t you know that I could make a dream
That’s barely half-awake come true
I wanted to say
But anything I could have said
I felt somehow you already knew.
Everything’s Different Now
The third album, Everything’s Different Now, was intensely personal and sounds more like Mann’s first solo album even though she got a lot of songwriting help including the title track being written by Jules Shear and Matthew Sweet. Mostly, the album is very dark. By this point, Aimee Mann’s themes are pretty clear like the impossibility of wounded people to find happiness together. For example, in “Rip in Heaven” we get:
So long and sorry, darling
I was counting to forever
And never even got to ten.
The song that most stays with me over all these years is “David Denies” off the second album. In it, the singer is reckoning with a lover who she knows is about to go back to his ex out of guilt. What I find most interesting about it is that the man will hurt one of the two women but doesn’t see that.
I’ve always thought the song would be more interesting sung by a man with David being bisexual because the song would be richer because of the anti-gay social pressures. But it works great as is.
Welcome Home album cover image via Amazon under Fair Use.