Monday, October 18, 2010

VERY Unremarkable ‘80s Pop: ‘Til Tuesday's Welcome Home.

The Good: Some lyrics, Some vocals
The Bad: Instrumental accompaniment is boring, Repetitive lyrics, Short
The Basics: A dismally blasé album, Welcome Home fares poorly over multiple listens.

I suspect there comes a time in virtually every band's progress when the band has to decide if it is truly a band or a solo act with very regular back-up artists. Despite the fact that Joey Pesce wrote one of the songs on Welcome Home, it appears by this point in the progress of ‘Til Tuesday, the band was essentially Aimee Mann with very regular backing instrumentalists. Unfortunately, Welcome Home is average-at-best and now sounds completely dated. Unlike other ‘Til Tuesday albums I have heard, Welcome Home suffers because it does not even have the hook other albums have (in other words, no hit single).

Welcome Home sounds like what it is, remarkably middle-of-the-road mid-1980s pop music. As such, it is loaded with synthesizer accompaniment, overproduced backing vocals and a poor replayability that comes from many of the songs sounding very similar.

With only ten tracks occupying 40:31, Welcome Home is largely the work of Aimee Mann and ‘Til Tuesday. Mann wrote all but one of the songs and she was involved in co-writing all of them. Aimee Mann provides the lead vocals on each and every track and she plays bass on most tracks as well. The other three members of the band, Robert Holmes, Joey Pesce, and Michael Hausman co-wrote a couple of the tracks and they provide musical accompaniment on the piano, synthesizer, guitars and percussion. The album was produced by Rhett Davis.

Sadly, Welcome Home is lacking in anything remotely catchy. Songs like “David Denies” and “Lover’s Day” might ingrain themselves in the mind of the listener solely because the lyrics are repeated so frequently in the songs. After several listens to this album, I cannot pick out a single tune. The reason for this is that most of the instrumental accompaniment is a very bland, almost ballad-like synthesizer accompaniment which is utterly indistinct. The album is hardly exciting and most of the songs have a slow, sad feel to them despite having the synthesizer as the primary instrumentation.

Vocally, Aimee Mann illustrates range on Welcome Home. She manages to go into her lower ranges on songs like “Sleeping And Waking” and she illustrates her flawless soprano voice on “What About Love.” But she garbles some of the lyrics on “Coming Up Close” and the inability to clearly understand all that she is singing is frustrating to the listener, especially when it seems the lines are not as inspired as some of her other works.

Lyrically, Welcome Home is a mix of sad little storysongs and the entire album has a melancholy feel to it. Mann seems especially wistful when she sings “Is it that a change of scene is all she needs / Maybe it's something she works out alone / And if I don't hold her up / Will she just fall down” (“Will She Just Fall Down?”)? It is almost as if she were singing about leaving the band and going her own way. Either way, the song about codependency seems an odd choice for a pop number and it does not quite fit the tune that accompanies it.

Many of the songs are about endings and a feeling of futility in relationships, but ‘Til Tuesday is not saying anything extraordinarily new. With lines like “It's what he wants I'm almost sure / And I can hardly stand him saying it's not so / And so I'll wait and so I'll hope / Somehow I can convince him not to let me go / David denies that he'll ever change his mind / (but he always changes) / David denies - but he's left his love behind / (left his love behind)” (“David Denies”) the band seems to want to muse on love, but there's no catch. We don't empathize with the musical protagonist because we don't care about her. Sometimes people do change and the song does not explore that well.

Finally, some of the songs are just plagued by repetition. I could live well without hearing “There's no such thing as lover’s day” (“Lover’s Day”) ever again. The idea isn't bad, but it’s a one-line idea and ‘Til Tuesday subjects the listener to that same line over and over. It’s not worth it.

Sadly, that is where I fall on Welcome Home. The album just isn't worth it. It is not new, it is not fresh and it sounds like what it is: something old and very mediocre.

For other works by ‘Til Tuesday and/or Aimee Mann, please check out my reviews of:
Voices Carry
I'm With Stupid
Magnolia Soundtrack


For other album and single reviews, please visit my index page for an organized list by clicking here!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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