Before her Versace gowns and Hollywood diets cleaned her up, Courtney Love was hands down the most frightening figure in rock music this side of GWAR. Her tattered wedding gown and visable scars on her body screamed "junkie." That tag proved all to true when she admitted to using heroin before she knew she was going to be a mother. And finally, there was the Yoko Ono presence, the leachous wife of a superstar.
Then, there was Live Through This. An album that, even today, still brings up questions. Did Cobain have a dominant hand in recording the album? (How do you explain the radical difference between this album and Pretty On The Inside and Celebrity Skin?) How much of the album is autobiographical? Does Hole have any crediability to their indie roots now that they're stuffing lobster in their pie holes with David Geffen?
For open minded listeners, that all can be put aside. Live Through This still packs a whallop of a punch. It's one of the most cathartic albums of this past decade. Whether you love Courtney or want to see her thrown off of a 30 story building, you have to admit, the band's talented. Twelve perfectly structured pop songs in less than 40 minutes. True to the punk form.
But calling Hole punk is sort of like calling the Clash punk: it just doesn't do the band justice. Eric Erlandson's guitar work sounds like he's studied Beach Boys albums one moment and the next moment, it seems like he's taking hints from one of the guitarists of Anthrax.
The late Kristen Pfaff and the now-dismissed Patty Schemel are also terrific on bass and drums respectfully. Both of these people make songs like "Violet" and "Gutless" explode in a eruption of rage.
And of course, there's Courtney Love. Her gravel-like howls pound, claw and swim their way through the gorgous pop that her bandmates construct for her. After listening to toothless hard rock by Creed and the teen icons of today (Backstreet/Spears/N Sync), at my office for five solid hours, songs like "Jennifer's Body" and "Credit In The Straight World" can still stir up a reaction.
Love sings like she has opened up every vein in her body. Anyone who feels like they're being used or taken advantage of in a relationship should hear "Asking For It." Even though the song is a vivid anti-rape song, the first line sinks in to any listener when she moans, "Every time I sell myself to you/ I fell a little cheaper than I need to/ I will tear the petals off of you/ Rose red I will make you tell the truth."
Controversy aside, Live Through This could almost get a PG rating... until "I Think That I Would Die" comes on. Then, Live Through This hits its zenith point. Take in mind, for two years before this album, Love was under intense scrutiny from nearly all fields, from the media to her own peers. And for the nine songs of Live Through This, Love seemed to take the blame in stride, even looking inward to her own follies. But in "I Think That I Would Die," Love takes a partial swipe to those who think of her as an unfit mother. As the music patters to a hault, Love sings "She lost all her innocence/Gave into an abscess/ She lost all her innocence/ She said, 'I am not a feminist.'" Then, after a couple of random words, Love rises to a blood-curdling "FUCK YOOUUUUU!" Wow.
The final two songs end the album in a decent package, but they are far from delivering such a powerful blow as "I Think That I Would Die." Kudos must go to producers Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade for harnessing Hole's potential on this powerful album. Because as pretty as Celebrity Skin sounds, it nowhere achieves the feats that Live Through This achieved.
Props may also go to Cobain. Two years after Live Through This came out, there came up an unreleased tape, which had Cobain and Love dueting the song, "Ask For It." He may not have been at the soundboards yelling at the members to sound more melodic or more harsh, but all of that tattered power that was Hole was virtually polished over on thier next release. The verdict is still out on whether or not it's an improvement.