Canadian-born Melissa Auf Der Maur became a minor icon in the 1990s by playing the role of the quiet, unspeakably cool bassist while Courtney Love made a spectacle of herself in Hole. Hole's implosion was nicely timed with D'Arcy's departure from The Smashing Pumpkins, allowing Auf Der Maur to move into the quiet, unspeakably cool bassist slot in that band. With Mando Lopez of Fear taking over for Josephine Wiggs in The Breeders, Auf Der Maur had no choice but to go it alone when the Pumpkins called it a day.
Her solo debut, the none-too-creatively titled Auf Der Maur, made its debut last year in Europe, but it could just as easily have come out in 1996, when its Billy Corgan-inspired, arena-scale, guitar-driven introspective musery was the flavor of the day. It would have been just as forgettable then, but at least it wouldn't sound so anachronistic.
While Auf Der Maur admirably makes herself the focus of her own debut, writing or co-writing most of the songs and relegating high-profile guests like Josh Homme and James Iha to the background, she never finds a way to distinguish one track from the next, or from the output of just about any '90s alt-rock also-ran. Though Auf Der Maur is never objectionably bad, there's nothing the least bit distinctive about it. Auf Der Maur remains a fine bassist, but she's a weak vocalist and an unmemorable songwriter. As a lyricist, she trades in clumsy intimacy: "Taste You" has a sexy title, but there's no way to make a line like "Plug it in so I can digest you" sound sexy. Auf Der Maur gets points for trying, and more points for making her album more listenable than Love's America's Sweetheart, but Auf Der Maur is much duller at the same time. In rock 'n' roll, the obnoxious crazies trump the dully competent every time.