Ayo Jegede
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June 16, 2004
Amazon Disco:
Auf Der Maur Auf Der Maur
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Auf Der Maur Auf Der Maur
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Auf Der Maur
Auf Der Maur

a friend of mine in high school remarked that "women don't play guitar." baffled by such a callous statement, i immediately rebuked him by naming off a litany of female musicians including Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, and Lita Ford (only as a rebuke, not an endorsement). still he persisted in opinion, saying that all of them--even Raitt--proved to be generally beneath the caliber of male guitarists. well, that's a good point. but it's also known that the Law of Large Numbers will be bound to create many great male guitarists when the male pool is so large (shitty male guitarists far outnumber female). so what is it about the dearth of good female guitarists? is it talent? no, talent is sexless. is it implicit musical requisites for each sex? that's part of it. it's mostly a de facto lack of innovation in all guitarists regardless of sex. some of them just happen to be mediocre and female.

Melissa Auf Der Maur, however, doesn't belong in this category. first because she's a bassist and secondly because she's a damn good one, having played with both Hole and the last iteration of the Smashing Pumpkins. on her self-titled debut, Auf Der Maur strives to fabricate a sound unto her own experiences and avoid the fashion of just being "the bassist." now, very few artists in rock have done tremendously as polyamorous instrumentalists. Dave Grohl's good guitar skills still cannot compare with the god-like drumming he's capable of. Josh Homme, whose stoner rock propelled QoTSA to mainstream success, is also just good as a drummer for Eagles of Death Metal. the difference with Auf Der Maur isn't that she switched the bass for another instrument, but rather that she lessened her superlative bass skills for an above-average band. really, her bass work is almost nonexistent on the entire album. it's almost as if she picked up the guitar.

this isn't to say that Auf Der Maur isn't competent. for a pop-rock record it manages to stay above the fray of unsuccessful solo transformations (ahem, Courtney Love). still, the best the album gets is just 'good.' 'Followed The Waves,' the first single, is part siren-like crooning and part guitar crunch, Der Maur's vocals properly off-setting the latter. 'Head Unbound' follows the same routine, though manages to sound almost entirely dissimilar. still, it's all particularly generic. Auf Der Maur's bass is unfortunately reticent, swallowed by the Charybdian sea of chug rock. there are a few moments where Der Maur truly tests her solo mettle ('Overpower Thee'), but only makes the songs feel capaciously unfilled. there's evidence, too, of failed attempts at entendre and lyrical chicanery as on 'Taste You:' "I can't fake it my love/I need filling come on/I need it louder than bombs." cute, but a little tawdry and unnecessary.

Auf Der Maur is an OK debut. though it employs far too many common quirks of rock, it displays a general fortitude. are there any good female guitarists? well yeah. the problem is that there aren't enough female guitarists as it is to create the necessary platform for the great ones to emerge. we've seen a few today (Maura Davis of Denali and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney come to mind), and many are probably in waiting.

Release date: June 1, 2004
Label: Capitol
Rating: 6.0 / 10