In the world of literary fiction, great short story writers usually fail to produce a novel that rivals their briefer works. For Aimee Mann, her lyrical vignettes of dysfunction and addiction every bit as complex and beautiful as a Raymond Carver or Flannery O'Connor story have always had just as much difficulty assembling themselves into long-form masterpieces. Her albums, as a consequence, always seemed like piecemeal collections. Director P.T. Anderson's Magnolia revealed the inherent cinematic quality of her alt-country-tinged pop-rock, but it was Anderson who provided the glue that made the storyline stick together. Mann's last effort, Lost in Space, was just as dense with narrative knots, but didn't have any stick either. Her latest, The Forgotten Arm, however, finally sticks together and sticks with you. By imagining the concept album as a novel (even the packaging suggests as much), Mann has imposed a discipline on herself she previously lacked; the result is a 12-chapter chronicle of a carnival worker who falls for a down-on-his-luck boxer, only to lose it all to the addiction he brings back from Vietnam. It's her version of the great American novel, full of love, promise and disappointment, but, in a very '70s manner, no resolutions.
Appears Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 248-668-8397.
Cole Hadden writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].