Most of the folks who’ve worn a T-shirt with the deathlessly popular slogan ”I’m With Stupid” over the years were, presumably, kidding. Aimee Mann, who borrows it for her new album title, isn’t. If you never got past the former ‘Til Tuesday leader’s deceptive porcelain looks and pretty, disaffected murmur to discover the misanthrope within, you may be shocked at just how vitriolically well I’m With Stupid lives up to its promising title. She administers scoldings to ex-boyfriends, ex-record labels, and other alleged nincompoops with a degree of indignation Alanis Morissette probably has yet to imagine in her young life. Yet, for the liberal amount of times Mann resorts to the F-word while raking these rakes over the coals, she remains one of rock’s most elegantly gifted melodic and lyrical writers, with a well-attuned psychological acuity to her catchy kiss-offs that any angry young woman would envy. Bitterness, regret, and recrimination never sounded any sweeter, or smarter.
Mann’s first solo album, 1993’s cult-attracting Whatever, was an odd, frequently brilliant mix of buoyant Beatles-isms and weary post-breakup resignation. I’m With Stupid is a consistently tougher number, employing fewer fab flourishes in favor of a big, cranky, buzzing bottom end that anchors her broadsides closer to the gut whence they hail. And she sounds prouder as well as louder. In tender moments she might own up to her own codependent culpability in these quagmires (”And all that stuff I knew before/Just turned into ‘Please love me more,’ ” she admits in an unusually vulnerable couplet). Mostly, though, Mann is the model of resilience, blaming it on the other guy and — as in ”That’s Just What You Are,” where an ex’s lazy declaration of independence is deftly turned back into an insult — making a damn good case why. Hail the once and future queen of kiss-and-tell-off.