Release Date: Apr 27, 2010
Record label: Mercury
It's anyone's guess what the difference is between a Hole reunion where Courtney Love is the only original member and a Love solo album, but one thing's certain: somehow, some way, this record, unlike C-Love's persona for the last decade, isn't a cringe-inducing disaster. [rssbreak] Not that she doesn't try to make it one, enlisting songwriting help from bland Linda Perry and head-up-his-own-ass Billy Corgan, as well as gloss-master producer Michael Beinhorn. Against all odds, Nobody's Daughter prevails with head-turning vitriolic blasts like Skinny Little Bitch, Samantha and How Dirty Girls Get Clean.
“I’ve lost my voice,” Courtney Love sings at one point on the new “Hole” album Nobody’s Daughter, essentially an amped-up version of what was once her long-in-the-works sophomore solo album How Dirty Girls Get Clean. But Love has always sounded like other people, and her cadence on a new version of what would have been that album’s title track recalls that of PJ Harvey, and there are subtle shades of Patti Smith throughout. It’s Marianne Faithfull’s substance-ravaged voice, however, that comes to mind most often while listening to songs like “Honey” and “For Once in Your Life.” The latter track is, in fact, one of Love’s most raw and vulnerable vocal performances to date.
Hole's first album in 12 years has come with the usual serving of controversy, this time incited by the fact that Courtney Love is the only original member present. The recruitment of new hands (including a Brit, Larrikin Love's Micko Larkin), plus the bombast-loving Linda Perry as co-writer, has resulted in more polish and fewer scabrous punk moments. Love herself, though, has barely changed: still enslaved by the need to vent every emotion as it happens, she's alternately thrilling (see the snarling, visceral Skinny Little Bitch) and tedious (quite a lot of the other tracks).
Fans of previous Hole albums Pretty On The Inside, Live Through This and Celebrity Skin will experience a near-universal first impression when firing up the band’s (such as it exists these days) decade-delayed fourth record, Nobody’s Daughter: to wit, Courtney’s voice still sounds a lot like Courtney’s voice. This is both a) a good thing - she's still in possession of one of the most singular snarls in rock - and b) far more of a surprise than it ideally should be. Still, we can probably forgive ourselves if the title track evokes a disarming wave of nostalgia.
The Courtney Love persona — riot girl gone wild, tabloid quarry, Ultimate Rock Widow — has long subsumed Courtney Love the artist. But even 16 years on, few have channeled rage and bottomless want as powerfully as she did on Hole’s seminal ’94 album Live Through This. On Celebrity Skin, its glossier follow-up, she retained that ineffable Courtney-ness: caustic, self-aware, filterless.
On March 19, Courtney Love and her new band-mates took the stage at Spin‘s annual SXSW party as the latest reincarnated version of Hole. The show, which was the band’s first tour date since their final tour in 1999, surprisingly garnered positive reviews even though Love displayed her usual erratic behavior. If anything, it was a smart PR move to properly showcase their first album in over ten years, Nobody’s Daughter.
Resurrecting the Hole moniker for 2010’s Nobody’s Daughter is simply a matter of business for Courtney Love: her 2004 solo album, America’s Sweetheart, flat-lined, so her assumption is that the name Hole carries some cachet and will raise her profile and, in turn, her sales. That neither Love’s chief collaborator Eric Erlandson nor her lieutenant Melissa Auf der Maur is to be found on this purported reunion is of no serious commercial consequence -- for most observers, Courtney Love was Hole just like Debbie Harry was Blondie, her supporting cast seemingly meaning little to the end product. Of course, the ironic thing is that Love is more dependent on the kindness of others than most singer/songwriters, her work taking on the characteristics of her collaborators -- and in the case of Nobody’s Daughter, they include longtime (and now former) friend Billy Corgan and Michael Beinhorn, two of the architects behind 1998’s Celebrity Skin, the one time Courtney came close to being the genuine crossover rock star she so desperately craves to be.
For girls who came of age in the mid-1990s, streaked their hair with Manic Panic, accessorized baby-doll dresses with combat boots and thrift-store cardigans, and crammed dog-eared copies of Sassy into each others' lockers, Courtney Love can feel like something of a pet cause. In 1994, Live Through This, Hole's second LP-- released, famously, in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide, after Love spent the weekend tottering through a vigil in a Seattle Center park-- was transformative, instructive, and beloved. That harsh, throaty gasp at the end of "Violet" was so authentically exhausted it felt like a promise: I'm giving you all I've got.