- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

Auf der Maur

Auf der Maur

Capitol Records

The alternative rock world has become a segmented mess, but don’t tell Melissa Auf der Maur, whose self-titled solo debut is a retrograded blast of slicked-up sludge and serpentine, come-hither metal.

Miss Auf der Maur is no neophyte. At 32, she has siphoned enough rock-star aura from bass-playing stints with ‘90s powerhouses Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins to warrant the surname-only nom-de-public.

Guitarist friends from both bands — Hole’s Eric Erlandson and the Pumpkins’ James Iha — make appearances, as does Steve Durand, who played guitar in Miss Auf der Maur’s first band, Tinker.

The self-financed “Auf der Maur” took 10 years to write and, indeed, some of the tracks here — those low, brooding guitar lines on “Head Unbound,” the sexy grunge of “Real a Lie” — sound at least a decade old.

But where ex-boss Courtney Love pitched broadly and wildly to the pop-metal masses with her most recent solo album, Miss Auf der Maur has found a dark, murky corner all to herself.

Producer Chris Goss and singer-guitarist Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), who worked together in the influential California stoner-metal band Kyuss, are a heavy presence on “Auf der Maur,” dropping big, de-tuned, doom-and-gloom riffs like precision-guided bombs.

The first single, “Followed the Waves,” starts with Miss Auf der Maur doing a silly-scary Middle Eastern howl and, in the same vein, goes on to rip off the hiccup guitar part from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Strangely, it works; there’s nothing like it on the radio right now. At least not from a red-haired girl in thigh-high boots.

The album’s offshoots — purring swing (“I’ll Be Anything You Want”), lounge piano (“Overpower Thee”), Britpop (“Would If I Could”) — are welcome breaks from the Sturm und Drang, and the finale, “I Need I Want I Will,” tells a bizarre dream story of aliens injecting us with three-dimensional sound comprehension.

At times, the cheese quotient runs a little too high: the sound of an electrical storm on “Lightning Is My Girl,” for instance, and the bleating of animals on “Beast of Honor.”

Miss Auf der Maur isn’t the most inspired lyricist, either, often using lyrics that are merely vulgar or gross. “Skin Receiver” has her “crawling through your flesh stew.”

Eww.

“Auf der Maur” isn’t for the faint of heart — or ear — but if you’re thirtysomething and miss grunge, it will tide you over at least until the next Courtney Love drug bust.

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