Auf Der Maur
Auf Der Maur
o then, “America’s Sweetheart”…
Oh, as if that wasn’t what you were thinking. Despite the fact that she had a perfectly fruitful career with that one band before joining Hole, and that she spent two and a half years, plus arguably more studio time than she did with Courtney et al, in the Smashing Pumpkins, to most of us, Melissa Auf Der Maur is the video to “Celebrity Skin”, all come on glances, sophisticate glamour, playing the Elizabeth Wakefield to Courtney’s Jennifer (Google it if you don’t know. And you do). She’s still considered “former Hole bassist” rather than “former Smashing Pumpkins bassist”, possibly due to how, in Hole, she actually had a role: a counterbalance to Courtney, someone who had enough stage presence, and, let’s be honest here, looks to take some of the attention and weight off Courtney. In the Pumpkins, she was One Of The Ones That Isn’t Billy Corgan. One of the most active threads on Capitol Music’s hastily set-up Auf Der Maur forum at the moment is “Auf Der Maur has officially kicked Courtney’s ass”. You can’t escape your past.
So, firstly, this album doesn’t kick Courtney’s ass. It barely lands a blow on it. While Love’s sound has progressed to become part of, nay, cannibalise the current pop firmament, Mel’s is more of a nervous scuttle back into the past—the early 90s. The past of Seattle, the past of pre-Melissa Hole, and, in what can only be the punch-line to some bad in-joke, the past of Nirvana. For a woman has always been happy to occupy the foreground when the opportunity presents itself here (we’re talking about a former shill for pseudo-alternative mass-produced clothing here, remember), she seems oddly uncomfortable with the role of solo artist. The anonymous, faceless artwork, the deglamourising in the few photoshoots she does lend her features to (a process that began with a Corgan-diktat, but has sadly continued throughout her solo output), and the pretension of using what is effectively a band-name for a one woman solo project.
The direct reference point with the name Auf Der Maur, anyway, is obviously Van Halen. And, of course, you should all know that the girl rocks it as the front-Ozzette of a wymyn-only Black Sabbath tribute act (called Fairies Wear Boots. Do you see? Oh good). And… well, you know how when DJ Shadow keeps chopsing on about how much he loves hip-hop? Don’t you just think “WELL FUCKING PLAY SOME THEN!!! ENOUGH WITH THE SOUND OF A ONE ARMED-FUNK DRUMMER EATING A WALL!”. Same here. For a one so versed, so keen, so endeavoured in her pretensions of Proper Metal, what we get here is a large list of pastiches. Pastiches executed with some wit, with some precision, heck, even with some stabs at a tune every now and then, but not what we want, and, you get the suspicion, not what she wants either. So, from the single, we get a Seattle Kate Bush, for “I Need I Want I Will” we get At The Drive-In, and have a guess what the song the result of getting both Josh Homme and your man that produces Queens of the Stone Age in is. However, sometimes her knack for impression isn’t even deliberate. Listen to “Skin Receiver”, specifically the moment at 1:01 in where she turns into Sophie Ellis Bextor for exactly one second. She’s a right little Ronnie Ancona.
It’s a not a bad album, per se, just a wasted opportunity. Auf Der Maur has always been a charismatically charismaless performer, and this could have been, as it seems intended, a step out of the shadows of her more famous colleagues. Instead, it actually resorts to reciting “when she was good, she was very very good” at one point, as some sort of… what? What exactly is that supposed to do Melissa? Impress me?
Anyway, yeah, Melissa Auf Der Maur. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. This is because bridesmaids can get away with just looking pretty and doing nothing. A bride has to make a commitment, something she’s afraid to do.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2004-02-20