There are four great songs on this soundtrack, and eight pleasantly average ones. Aimee
Mann who is the inspiration for the whole kit and caboodle – the film, the
soundtrack, the Paul Thomas Anderson encomium in the liner notes – actually wrote
none of the great ones. Sorry Paul. And Aimee. She does sing one of them though . . .
Her sensitive cooing of Harry Nilsson’s One – amidst a dazzling arrangement
of rhythmic keyboards, romantic guitar lines, transient percussive accents and
counter-harmonies (with all instruments performed by the remarkable Jon Brion) –
couldn’t be further from John Farnham’s dramatic interpretation, which just goes
to prove there’s more than One way to do justice to a finely crafted pop song.
Mann’s voice is as sweet as marzipan and fresh as teaming rain, but none of her
originals on this soundtrack move me like this opening track, or, in fact, the two classic
Supertramp numbers (Goodbye Stranger and Logical Song), or Jon Brion instrumental that
conclude the recording.
Anderson waxes lyrical about Mann’s lyrics. He says she is a "brilliant
writer . . . a great articulator of the biggest things we think about" because her
lyrics are so "simple and direct". Oh Man(n)! I like her lyrics too. She does
write about universal themes, and she cuts to the quick with her emotional honesty, but
appealing as straightforward expressions of the heart may be, they do not alone place the
author alongside Joni Mitchell . . . or even Tori Amos (whom Mann can’t compete with
lyrically, but does borrow from melodically – compare Amos’s Leather with
Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a superior soundtrack. Mann’s songs
are easy listening for any mood or occasion, and the clarity of the production (with mixes
by tone master Bob Clearmountain) is matchless. But it’s not quite the tour de force
Anderson would have you believe.
Review published: September 7, 2000