With the new Melissa Auf Der Maur and Courtney Lo...I mean Hole albums coming out on the same day it just brings to mind how differently these two former bandmates spend their free time. When Love isn't releasing records (which is most of the time) she's involved in numerous legal wrangles and upsetting airline staff. In contrast we've hardly heard a peep out of MADM since her 2004 debut Auf Der Maur, but that's not to say she hasn't been busy.
Out of Our Minds comes to us as just one facet of a multimedia concept project that also includes a 28 min film starring MADM herself and a comic book, the concept itself being one concerning Vikings and Norse mythology. As is so often the case with concept albums, this isn't something which is very apparent from the music itself (there being no Viking war songs, if indeed such things do exist). Musically OOOM pretty much picks up where Auf Der Maur left off, hardly surprising considering the return of Chris Goss on production duties. The meat and potatoes of the album are big riff-laden metallic pop songs invariably tinged with psychedelic or gothic leanings, Auf Der Maur's own bass-playing a driving force while her sexually intoxicating vocals are often the one thing preventing somewhat ridiculous lyrics like "The woman in my bed, the feline in my head" from sounding, well, ridiculous.
However, there are a few surprises to be found. The instrumental 'This Would Be Paradise" has a nightmarish toybox sound not unlike the output of Stephin Merritt side-project The Gothic Archies, the main melody being strummed on what sounds like an autoharp complimented with some muted guitar and all swept up in an endless gust of white noise as a speech by politician Tommy Douglas (voted 'The Greatest Canadian' in 2004) is played throughout. Following this is murder ballad 'Father's Grave', a duet with Glenn Danzig of Misfits. Danzig is a natural in the role of the man digging the grave of the titular father while MADM is the aggrieved "little girl" seeking solace with the two ultimately engaging in a lover's tryst. Just the sort of outcome you would expect from the mind of Melissa Auf Der Maur. The way the gentle sway of piano based verses erupts into the grinding riffage of the melodramatic choruses provide the most cathartic moments on the record. Album opener 'The Hunt' also ploughs new terrain growing from a NIN-style mechanistic throb to a rock monolith.
This effective opener is followed by album's title track, lead single and highlight, which displays the subtle changes that have been made from Auf Der Maur, the pure bombast of 'Followed the Waves' now replaced by the splurge of lean trebly guitars that go into stuttering mode for the stripped back verses, the chorus this time getting by on its irresistible wiry lead guitar melody alone - you can't help but want to submit when Auf Der Maur commands "Travel out of our minds and into our hearts". Completing an impressive opening trio is 'Isis Speaks' with Auf Der Maur wrapping her words around a guitar hook that doesn't so much stick in your head as lacerate itself into your memory.
Then things get a little pedestrian after this blistering opening. The U2-style chime of instrumental 'Lead Horse' is just bland and could be the work of any lunkhead having a go at 'atmospheric rock'. Too many subsequent tracks display the same sonic and structural DNA; verses of persistent yet muted guitar leading to heavy choruses. The playful archness and new-wavey synths of 'Meet Me On the Darkside' make it a standout despite the somewhat trite lyrics ("Everyone has a dark side, why don't you like mine") and the chugging riffage of 'The Key' is more distinctive being pure QOTSA while the unexpected key change of the chorus is one the most melodically effecting moments on the record. While tracks like 'Follow The Map', 'The One' and '1000 Years' aren't bad per se, they just don't have any particularly interesting features which make them worthy of inclusion and the result is an album that is overlong and a bit samey.
A little bit like her debut in that regard too then. It isn't the ideal way to experience a concept album, but Out of Our Minds is perhaps best enjoyed by cherry picking its highlights rather than listening to in its entirety, although perhaps the full record may be a more gratifying experience for those who have read the comic and seen the film...or have a specific interest in Viking concept albums.
6Neil Ashman's Score