Ex Hole and ex Pumpkins member looks to a very bright future...
As far as interesting lives go, Melissa Auf Der Maur has done pretty well so far, especially for a Canadian. Born in 1972 to a debonair politician father and rock journalist cum DJ mother – surely the ideal parental mix – she first took acid at 12 and by 17 was the bass player in the, apparently, maddeningly intense philosopho- rock outfit, Tinker. By the age of 22 she had teamed up with the recently widowed Courtney Love to fill the bass-player shaped hole left in Hole made by Kristen Pfaff’s smack overdose. Five years of unwavering insanity followed before she upped and left for The Smashing Pumpkins – themselves a bassplayer short thanks to D’arcy Wretzky’s alleged drug problems. Billy Corgan, having recently released the band’s last album, ‘MACHINA / The Machines of God’, had decided he’d had enough of being Mr Tubby Bald Bloke in The Silly Outfits and had the crew sunk to their apricots in a globe-straddling farewell tour. Cue rather a lot more insanity. Oh, and she got her nasty on with Dave Grohl for a while too, though she’s now involved with that laughable cabaret goon Andrew WK, so at least we know she has some human failings. Rather annoyingly though, the impressive gear doesn’t come to a full stop right there, because now Melissa has delivered a hugely sexual, gleefully psychedelic rock record that’s so full of deliciously melancholic stadium destroyers and beautifully de-tuned melodic bombs that, at the perfectly reasonable age of 32, you get the impression that the [I]really[/I] good stuff is only just beginning.
Auf Der Maur are more than just one person, both Stone Age Queen Josh Homme and former Kyuss bandmate Brandt Bjork, both appear, the former co-writing a couple of songs too, and both band’s influence runs deep throughout the whole album. Opening track, ‘Lightning Is My Girl’ and first single ‘Followed The Waves’ find Melissa’s vocals – a mix of breathy whispers and effortless, off-hand cool – floating a few spare inches above rigorously muscular riffs.[I] “I’m gonna shuffle his deck clean,”[/I] she promises, the smile audibly curling her lips, at the end of the latter and you immediately think, you lucky [I]bastard[/I]. Unless she really is talking about cards, which seems unlikely.
It’s best not to think about Mr WK during the none-more-saucy, ‘Taste You’ ([I]”Plug it in, so I can digest you”[/I]), but even if you do, the band are busy pulling off such audaciously monstrous choruses – and a note-perfect rip-off of The Cure’s ‘Love Song’, legal fans – that you’ll happily let it go. And again, the mix of stingingly personal lyrics: [I]”I need it louder than bombs,”[/I] say, or [I]”I have a big mouth, I will taste you”[/I], married to such bruisingly heavy music just draws you in even further, while the crunchy production is so massive, so [I]physical[/I], the music fills every in of space it comes into contact with. Your frontroom or your headphones present Auf Der Maur in perfect arena sound and Melissa herself is never less than upfront, dead centre.
‘Beast Of Honor’ could, indeed should, be the next single, the unmistakable aura of 80s alternative British rock – this time it’s the ringing guitar attack of prime Killing Joke – are all over it, but what’s really unmissable, and what takes the album from being merely very good to being genuinely wonderful, is the sense of [I]joy[/I] that surrounds it. [I]”I’ll Be Anything You Want”[/I], for instance, starts with cute voice-over from Melissa, leaps into a loving parody of The Clash’s ‘London Calling’, before exploding into a towering chorus so overpoweringly tuneful you feel like it’s always been a precious part of your life. Then it coquettishly twists the lyrics from Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ and fucks off laughing with its finger in the air. And if you hadn’t realised it already, they’ve [I] won[/I].
‘Would If I Could’ is gorgeous, like New Order and The Psychedelic Furs joining forces to soundtrack some 80s tortured teen drama and Melissa’s delivery of ‘Overpower Thee’ is so raw it needs surgery, but most important of all is ‘Auf Der Maur’ feels like coming home, and after such an amazing journey, that’s always going to feel good. Only one question remains: how on earth does she find the time to watch soap operas and sit talking rubbish in pubs?
Get ‘Auf Der Maur’ at the NME Shop