There are three things you need to know about Melissa Auf Der Maur: she was the bass player for Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, she has just released a self-titled debut solo album, and she rocks. Hard.
Melissa rocks so hard, in fact, there are moments on Auf Der Maur when female-fronted cock rock doesn’t seem to be a contradiction in terms. We expected the dark, snarly muscley bass riffs, throbbing beats and guitars aplenty. But Auf der Maur’s fantastic vocal talent is a marvelous surprise. She has a voice that, when she chooses, can sound positively ethereal – but there’s also a dangerous, deep throaty growl.
When she worries, for instance, “oh my love, oh my love, I can’t hear you my love – tell me where have you gone?” there is palpable frenzy in her voice, which quickly resolves into the hook-laden rocker “Taste You” about – er – “consuming” passion. Come to think of it, Auf der Maur seems a positively focused on the gastronomical for a couple of tracks in the middle of the album – she opens the next track after “Taste You” by declaring herself “a taste test / at the beast fest.”
It’s hard to select good lyrics to mention, because the lyrics are consistently terrific – as is the album. While there are some real standout tracks, there’s not a single track on this album that should elicit the skip button.
But it’s no wonder that this is such a good record - Auf der Maur has been doing this for a while. She says that playing with Hole and Smashing Pumpkins was “like a Bachelor’s degree in rock followed by a Masters.” While “educational” is not the first word that springs to mind at the thought of spending five years working in close proximity to Courtney Love, there’s no doubt that Love, unquestionably one of the most important females in 90’s rock music, has informed Melissa Auf der Maur’s work.
Love, alas, does not appear on the record, but there are plenty of other familiar faces - in a lot of ways, the recording studio must have felt like a visit from the Ghost of Rock and Roll Past. The album contains collaborations with Eric Erlandson from Hole, James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle, and even two members of Auf der Maur’s first band, Tinker. Also present are members of Queens of the Stone Age and their precursors Kyuss (who Auf der Maur cites as one of her favorite bands). She says that, when recording the demo of the album’s first single, “Followed the Waves,” she was essentially playing with Kyuss as her backing band. Rounding out the who’s who of modern rock is former Queen of the Stone Age Chris Goss, who Auf der Maur says was more like a member of the band than a producer.