SuperEgo Records – 2005 – 47 minutes

'The Forgotten Arm' sees Aimee Mann pouring her songwriting energy into what she's best at, the exploration of disappointment and dysfunction and how it relates to relationships.

It focuses on John and Caroline, two lost and lonely souls looking for something better. He's a war veteran and boxer who also has a drug problem and she wants to escape her life in the South. As Mann puts it, they think: "sharing the burden will lighten the load" ('King of the Jailhouse'). They end up in a casino town, where they discover that their problems have followed them and it's not easy to let go.

What's best about this concept album is that Mann shows us John and Caroline's ups and downs, their mistakes and their desire to do better. As a story, 'The Forgotten Arm' is brilliant, with tracks like 'King of the Jailhouse', 'Clean Up For Christmas' and 'Beautiful' all bringing something of the couple's needs and wishes to the fore.

What's unfortunate though, is that Mann doesn't really sound comfortable singing her own songs. They're pitched very low and her voice seems to strain with them on occasion. Sadly this fact compromises enjoyment of an otherwise great album.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting: Dear John – King of the Jailhouse – Goodbye Caroline – Going Through the Motions – I Can't Get My Head Around It – She Really Wants You – Video – Little Bombs – That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart – I Can't Help You Anymore – Clean Up For Christmas – Beautiful