Yes, Melissa Auf der Maur did briefly play bass in both Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, but Auf der Maur’s second solo album, Out of Our Minds, is very much its own thing. On her solo debut, Auf der Maur may have fished in the same lake as the Pumpkins for hard rock hooks, but much has changed in the six years that followed Auf der Maur‘s release. Out of Our Minds makes it apparent that she has since migrated to far murkier waters.
The hooks may be more obscure on this outing, but the ambitions aren’t. Out Of Our Minds isn’t just an album. It’s a multimedia project that includes a comic book and a film. Conceptually, the project involves Vikings, car crashes, trees that bleed, and a bit of witchcraft for good measure. The visual components of Out of Our Minds promise to illuminate the album, which, taken on its own, is a few links short. The Vikings are very much apparent throughout, or at least their penchant for pillaging is. Most of the songs seem to concern either man’s plundering and manipulation of nature, or the sexes and their aims to conquer one another.
“The Hunt”, an instrumental, opens Out Of Our Minds with an appropriate amount of hunting dog fervor. In a clear indication that Auf der Maur is spreading out musically, the song also packs a bit of post-punk urgency. The artist’s wails introduce the title track, reminding us that—in spite of her musical progressions—she still possesses a thin-as-frayed-wire singing voice. This shortcoming is forgiven when the music swings in and Auf der Maur abandons wailing for a cocksure delivery. It’s strange that the same song which displays her weakest vocals also shows her at her most confident and seductive. Similarly, songs such as “Follow The Map” combine weak lyrics with some of the album’s sturdiest and catchiest melodies. Thus, each song has some slight quality of redemption.
As Out Of Our Minds progresses, the proceedings become darker and more plodding, but also stranger. The peculiarity peaks with “This Would Be Paradise”. Amid a music box backdrop, a sample of Canadian politician Tommy Douglas intones, “Man is now able to fly through the air like a bird, he’s able to swim beneath the sea like a fish, to burrow beneath the ground like a mole. Now if only he could walk the Earth like a man, that would be paradise.” After a jarring first listen, the quote soon becomes indispensable to an album that sees its protagonist flying through the air, swimming beneath the sea, and burrowing beneath the ground, searching for the love that will make them human.
For all its progression, Out Of Our Minds ultimately feels overlong. More than a few times I had an urge to skip forward then backward again to the Danzig duet. Yes, you read that right: Danzig is on here and at his sinister best as—wait for it—a grave digger. However, for all of Auf der Maur’s weaknesses as a lyricist and vocalist, it’s hard to deny that her singing voice is unique as it is tinny. Whatever Melissa Auf der Maur’s intentions may be, one thing is for certain: it’s good to have her back.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.
// Notes from the Road
"Co-presented by the World Music Institute, the 92Y hosted a rare and mesmerizing performance from India's violin virtuoso L. Subramaniam.READ the article