Hole – [Album]

Monday, 26 April 2010

There's no way to look at Hole or Courtney Love in the present tense without looking at the history, if only because it is now so indelibly etched into pop culture. Of course, there has been the ongoing conjecture and quibbling over the state of Nirvana (or lack thereof), and all of the in-fighting around Kurt Cobain's legacy but, even after that should have faded, Love has remained a full-time pariah as Hole's productivity has become more sporadic. The rumor mill turns occasionally which sends ripples through rock (when Celebrity Skin came out, it was called "Pretty On The Outside" by some clever critic, and there weren't many critics that didn't line up to tear America's Sweetheart a new one – which was deserved) and, now that Kurt & Courtney's daughter is both the age of majority and working at Rolling Stone, and there's talk of a bio-pic for Nirvana being cast (latest news: Robert “Twilight guy” Pattison is being looked at to play Kurt, and Scarlett “could play it well, but is far too attractive for the role” Johannson might be playing Courtney), now seems like a good time to capitalize on the attention, revive the name of Hole and get some new music out there. So that's exactly what Love has done.

There's no small number of critics that have been sharpening knives for this moment. In some minds, Nobody's Daughter (the work for which has been underway under various names including How Dirty Girls Get Clean for years) is done before it even plays. No matter how good it might be, there are many people (critics too) that will not be able to bring themselves to like it. Why? Because Courtney Love is this generation's woman you love to hate.

But that's boring and has been done several times over in the last fourteen years. Fuck rhetoric. Here is the straight truth as dictated by a critic that has no love lost for Love and has found many of her actions over the years abhorrent, but also feels no emotional investment in whether the album sinks or swims. For the purposes of this dialogue, Nobody's Daughter will be forced to stand on its own merits – or lack thereof; I'll pull it apart and let you know what's inside.

In the opening, mildly ballad-esque title track, Love picks up pretty much right where she left off if one were to follow the train of thought that ran through Pretty On The Inside, Live Through This and Celebrity Skin as far as both the music and wholly self-aggrandizing lyrical fare are fairly dirge-y (lines like “I am the last one you save here/it's all gone wrong”) and melodramatic. Love has sort of slipped between the grooves in the characters she's played before in this song – she's no quite as atonal as Pretty On The Inside, but not as Pretty On The Outside as she was on Celebrity Skin – which is probably the best place she could be; now forty-five, she couldn't play the “working through daddy issues” card believably, nor can she play the diva, nor can she play the damsel in a secondhand wedding dress. If only by process of elimination alone, this could work.

Well, it could have, until Love falls headfirst into “Skinny Little Bitch,” which wreaks of Live Through  This all over again.

In that duality, Courtney Love sets the parameters for what Nobody's Daughter will be: a sort of compilation that tries to sew up any of the fifteen-year old loose ends that may be left dangling. Songs like “Loser Dust,” “ Letter To God” (great line: “Dear God, I'm writing this letter to you/cause I don't have a clue – can you help me?” and then later, “I never wanted to be the person you see”) and “For Once In your Life” all, by turns, find Love seeking to reconcile her past transgressions and ask forgiveness of unnamed and unseen ghosts and it all seems like a very personal rumination on a misspent life and image, but it threatens to be derailed every time the singer turns up the volume. Happily, that doesn't happen too often.

While not a bad record, the cynic in me wants to ask how much of this presentation is genuine – but that's a hard question to ask too as soon as one also questions how many people could possibly care anymore. It is possible too that this may be the dramatic, silent moment after the lights go out in a movie where the villain apologizes for any unwarranted pain they may have caused; it's hard to tell, especially when Love reneges on a promise she made on Live Through This in “Someone Else's Bed” and grumbles, “I never said I would try for you, I never said I would die for you.”

In that, one has to wonder if Nobody's Daughter is Courtney Love's last gasp of active songwriting duty – if only because of the air of finality that permeates this record. There's no easy way to tell, because much of the singer's difficulties are self-inflicted. While Nobody's Daughter is certainly a better record than anyone could have expected, it's also a record trapped in a tme fifteen years passed. Back then – and for so many years since – Courtney Love was locked into a self-imposed purgatory and she has been there so long now that she defines herself by it. At this point, even if she were to evacuate herself from that place, it's questionable if she'd have anything to sing about. As good as it might sound to some ears here, that's sort of sad in it's own way.



Hole – “Skinny Little Bitch” – Nobody's Daughter


Nobody's Daughter
comes out through Mercury Records on April 27, 2010. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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