In a time when the term “female solo artist” conjures up images of teen pop stars, Melissa Auf der Maur has taken a brave step in her self-titled debut: It is a rock record that actually rocks, more like Sabbath than Avril. Not that the concept of rocking is new to her. She played bass in Hole for a solid chunk of time, helped bury the Smashing Pumpkins by playing on their final record and their last tour, then went on to play with the Virgins and a Sabbath tribute band called Hand of Doom. Those projects contributed to song writing and sense of production values. But on Auf de Maur, she’s in charge.
Auf der Maur financed her debut and had complete control, and that comes through in the album’s genuineness. Working with close friend and producer Chris Goss and enlisting the help of, among others, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss; Brandt Bjork of Fun Manchu and Kyuss; Eric Erlandson of Hole; and James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins, Auf der Maur has a distinct sound. It draws heavily from the bands she admires, but incorporates her own take.
The album is heavy from start to finish, only occasionally backing down and often punctuated with very big riffs. At times, Homme’s influence is strong, almost to the point of mimicry, but Auf der Maur’s vocals keep it original. The album’s big sound is emphasized by production so clean it almost sounds hollow. That creates a strange dynamic when juxtaposed with the Sabbath-esque guitar and Auf der Maur’s subtly sexy voice. It’s not overt, but a strong stream of sexuality flows through the album; her lyrics maturely convey innuendos and desires.
After playing in two major rock bands, ten years of writing songs on her own, and two years of recording, Melissa Auf der Maur has shown what can happen when she is in charge. By combining her talents with other musicians, Auf der Maur created a solid rock offering and a unique musical sound. Not bad for the first time around.