It’s difficult to get over the overwhelming impression of Aimee Mann as the Lisa Simpson of rock: although she’s beautiful, she’s just so much smarter than all the other girls on the playground. Charmer displays her high IQ once again, along with all her many musical charms.
One big evidence of Aimee Mann’s smarter-than-thou-ness stems from the fact that the lyric to “Disappeared” mentions atoms splitting and “Gamma Ray” is, well, an obviously scientific song title. Anybody that refers to another as a “Gumby,” as occurs during the song of the same name, clearly shows someone operating on a higher intellectual plane.
It’s nearly impossible to put your finger on it, but Mann creates a special sonic vibe with her music. It’s singer/songwriter material, yes, but Mann has taken on a stubbornly independent demeanor ever since the demise of her ‘80s band ‘Til Tuesday. Although The Shins’ James Mercer has carved out his own jangle rock persona over the years, he is nearly entirely engulfed in the Mann cave of Aimee’s aura during their duet of “Living a Live.” It’s a Mann song, but with a guy along for the ride.
Mann’s bassist, Paul Bryan, produced this latest effort with a strong new wave pop-rock inspiration. Mann sings over a musical bed of innocent synthesizers and gentle percussion. Her voice always sounds a little weary, as though she has grown tired of so much stupid human behavior all around her. Even so, love is a highly addictive drug. Mann expresses her romance habit during “Labrador,” when she sings “I’ll come back for more,” much like a loyal pooch.
On the title track, Mann sings about the charmers we all know. Over a chugging groove that sounds like something out of a Cars ‘80s MTV video, she describes the hidden agendas these beautifully deceptive charming men and women sometimes hide. Yet, in her unique way, Mann is a charmer, too. While she’s singing angelically precious songs, she’s also expressing a far more earthly form of cynicism. Pretty girls like Mann don’t emote with harsh words, though. They coo, whether floating sweet nothings or disguised bullets. With Charmer, Aimee Mann hits us with her best shot again.