Everyone’s past is filled with things that they are somewhat ashamed to love or to admit they love. For instance, whenever the topic of `first concert attended’ comes up, I tend to shrink in a corner hoping that I won’t be asked. Just to set the record straight it was Wham! with openers Katrina and the Waves and Chaka Khan at Hollywood Park. As long as we’re airing out the dirty laundry, I think Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” was one of the best damn songs of last year. I used to watch Beverly Hills 90210, ok? Are you happy now? No? Alright, I specifically watched it for Shannen Doherty! Ha! Take that! Now I’ve gone too far in opening myself up to all of you. But I have one more confession, one that I’m sincerely proud of…I love Melissa Auf der Maur.
That’s right; I’m talking about the waifish bassist for Hole and Smashing Pumpkins post Kristen Pfaff and D’arcy Wretzky. To me, she is the epitome of Charlie Brown’s little red-haired girl, except in my comic strip she’s wearing torn stockings, high-heeled boots, and has a kick-ass bass around her shoulders. What’s strange is I never really listened to Hole after their first album, nor did I listen to Smashing Pumpkins after Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Yet still, I was fascinated by her. That’s how much power she has. It never fails; get an amazingly beautiful woman, put a guitar in her hands, have her sing extremely provocative lyrics, and the men will follow. Heck, there are enough men helping her out on the album to prove that one true. Mark Lanegan, Brant Bjork, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, James Iha, and Eric Erlandson, among others, all lend Melissa a helping hand on her debut.
But what I like about this album doesn’t have anything, or at least not everything, to do with Melissa’s girl-next-door good looks. It has everything to do with her music. Having learned from two ego-driven heavyweights, Auf der Maur has taken everything she’s learned and formed it into one polished, heavy, hard rock package. In just three listens I’ve caught riffs that hearken back to, or resemble, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Kim Deal, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Metallica, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Quicksand, Helmet, Heart, and a whole lot more. What it all might come down to is whether or not you loved the hard rock music coming out of the nineties. If you do, you will revel in her grandiose rock anthems, if not, what’s wrong with you?
That’s not to say that it’s all out of the hard rock scene. Take the sultry song “Taste You” which has an ending as good as Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” and also somewhat resembles The Cure’s “Love Song.” She also references the Smiths twice by singing “I need it louder than bombs” and “I have a bigmouth, I will taste you.” This album is so repeatedly listenable that I’ve kept all other new CD’s out of the player for the last few days. If you haven’t caught the first single or video, “Followed the Waves,” check it out. It is easily one of the best songs on the album and an enticer for what’s to follow. It starts with a Kim Deal scream and then churns heavily into an Alice in Chains chorus.
I’ve heard just as many rants as raves about this album. Most cite her thin voice. This is what makes it so great! At times sounding like Siouxsie and at others like Kim Deal without the years of Marlboros and sloe gin fizzes, it just adds to the overall image and sex appeal. Just listen to “Beast of Honor.” Although not as poetic, it’s as confessional as Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. It also proves the rule that guys want a saint in public and a sinner in bed. Some of the imagery is so `to the point’ that it makes me blush thinking about it. In the end, Auf der Maur is a severely sexual album, a `coming out,’ if you will, of Melissa as `sexual being,’ even though most of us knew it already just from seeing the bands she used to be in.
She has said that she wants to be considered the underdog, the redhead, the bassist, the Canadian. She has also said that she always considered herself to be somewhat of a tomboy. Who does she think she’s kidding? Even the song titles she has chosen for the album reflect her `dominant’ position: “Taste You,” “Overpower Thee.” But she can also play the submissive: “I’ll Be Anything You Want,” “Skin Receiver,” and “I need I want I will.” While guys will be aroused, girls will find power and freedom. Auf der Maur never gives up her feminine side while rocking the house and she never lets you forget who is really in power…she is.
Not only does she have the looks and the talent, but she also has brains. How smart is it of her to drop the `Melissa’ out of her name? Very smart. Just going by Auf der Maur is brilliant when you think about it. A Canadian redhead named Melissa does not scream respectability in the rock world. However, her Teutonic surname can be gravelly uttered by the voice in the first track, “Lightning is My Girl,” and sound really cool. Heck, just by adding umlauts to band names it increases the rock factor. Now I think she should just add umlauts to the two u’s. I don’t know if she’s selling tee-shirts on tour, but if she’s not, I have a great idea for her. Her last name should be on the shirt in Metallica script with the left leg of the A stretched down as well as the right leg of the R. Come to think of it, it’s even better (and more ironically cool) if she does that with her first name! Melissa is awfully close to Metallica! If you’re reading this Melissa, you can have that one for free (or just send me one of the shirts, I’d wear it with pride)!
In the end, Auf der Maur might not be as good as the nineties albums it emulates, but it’s a hell of a good time. Viel dank sie, schönes felsen- und rollenmädchen Auf der Maur!
Foo Fighters- The Colour and the Shape
Alice in Chains- Dirt
The Breeders- Last Splash