Friday, May 21, 2010

Melissa Auf Der Maur:
Out of Our Minds

Out of Our Minds is one of the most ambitious mainstream musical projects this side of The Flaming Lips . Not content to let the music stand alone, Melissa Auf Der Maur has apparently shot a film and created a comicbook to accompany the album. The details of the other two “inter disciplinary” projects are kind of sketchy — I don’t know what the comic is about, what the film depicts or how either relate to the album — but Auf Der Maur has had a grand time showing off her work to audiences at venues like the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

I’m not convinced Out of Our Minds has a narrative concept, but it’s certainly veined by themes of life, love, death and how all three concepts are bound together. Its edge is also honed by romance, in the belief that there’s more to life than what we can feel and touch — but that sensual experiences are also our most direct connection to life.

There’s a primal feel to the album, but in many ways it’s a more restrained effort than her first solo effort. But it’s also a more accomplished album, one that doesn’t suffer from the shortcomings of her debut (which had lyrics that sometimes sounded like they were written by a high school drama club.)

The most notorious track on the album is, of course, her duet with Glenn Danzig, who has long vowed to never participate in anything even resembling a duet. Auf Der Maur convinced Danzig to participate by simply writing him a letter and asking him. With luck, this is a sign that Danzig is  getting comfortable with the idea that people like his work.

Melissa Auf Der Maur and Karen Elson perform Danzig’s song, Devil's Plaything.

"My lucky sweatband that I wore throughout most of Hole was a Danzig patch sweatband, and I used to live in Los Angeles not too far from Danzig's home and drive by in my 1967 Cougar and would whisper, 'Please be my friend,'” she told Noisecreep. "I wanted so bad to have Danzig in my life."

Lucky for us, their collaboration — Father’s Grave — was worth the wait. Auf Der Maur and Danzig share writing credit on the song, but it’s clear that she had most of the tune in place before Danzig signed on. It harkens back (thought not too obviously) to Danzig’s Lucifuge days and is a terrific song.

Out of Our Minds is a diverse offering: Auf Der Maur flirts a little with ‘70s style psychedelia, quieter instrumentation that sometimes puts her voice further in the front than ever before and lurching rhythms that have been her songwriting signature since her days with Hole.

But there’s more to the album than a momentary detour to rock history. The album opens with an instrumental titled The Hunt which pulses with a quirky heartbeat and ambient vocals. The entire album builds steam as it progresses, with the harder, faster songs reserved for the final act. Father’s Grave gives way to The Key and The One, two songs about destiny and love that might sound sentimental coming from another musician. The album ends with the Nirvana-esque 1000 Years and techno-tribal styles of Whispers and Potions, which comes close to bringing the album full circle with its opening track.

Even though many of these themes would be perfectly at home on a Dio album, Melissa Auf Der Maur’s writing style is distinctively feminine. She’s also a good enough writer to find a way approach these subjects in ways that won’t frighten the straights. It’s a seductive approach to communication that is often missing from rock and roll.

NOTE: According to a recent Facebook post, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Jack Forbes, the artist on the Out of Our Minds comic, will be appearing Tuesday, May 25 at Forbidden Planet in NYC. If any of you are attending and want to share photos, please let me know.

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