Hole 2.0 – Nobody’s Daughter (the live-to-air review)
Hey. Glad you could make it. Thought we might want to establish a few rules before I get down to the actual reviewing.
This is a trial run for the format. So – duh – it might not work, as a format. The idea is that this live-to-air review takes it cue from the live political blogs and sports commentaries that one sees frequently on newspaper sites. I haven’t listened to any of this album before, and tried to keep outside opinion to a minimum. The way I review stuff these days, I try and focus on the music, shorn of context (the way folk claim criticism should be done but isn’t). You might argue that that’s impossible with Courtney Love but really, I have no interest in rehab or watching the car crash. Most music I receive these days is MP3 format and so there’s no outside clutter there. I purposely try not to see other critics’ opinions before giving mine (the exact inverse of the Google Search Engine optimisation syndrome that’s killing music criticism).
Having said that, of course I admit to a bias here. I’m not going into this situation expecting to enjoy the album – the guitarist is called Micko, for Bangs’ sake; and no less a washed-up former limpet as Billy Corgan has called Courtney the “Queen of Rock’n’Roll” – but I’m not going into it expecting to have a bad time, either.
So here’s the form. I switch the stopwatch on and start the album running. I review it while it’s running and when it stops, I stop. Maybe I might do a summary at the end, maybe not. I regularly update the blog entry, every couple of minutes, so you can read along with the process. No edits. There’s no time.
I think that’s it. Oh, and please participate. I welcome your feedback and suggestions and invective, the more immediate the better. That’s the whole point of this format. If it works OK – and I can’t imagine it will – I might try and find a different way to host this dialogue the next time.
Oh, and I’m calling Courtney’s second album Hole 2.0 because it saves me from having to use inverted commas the entire time. This isn’t Hole, not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s simply Courtney trying to save face after the abomination that was her one solo album, and realising that her own name in the context of releasing music has no cultural capital left attached at all.
I’m really not familiar with Courtney’s movements over the past decade. Seems like she’s not been making that good a go of it. Shame. We once knew each other. I wondered before sitting down to write this review whether this makes me under- or over-qualified to comment. James McMahon of NME has already made the point that it’d be far better if a 14-year-old girl was to write a review explaining why she felt so let down by this latest incarnation of Ms Love than for me to slag it. And clearly I have the weight of history dragging me down. But wait! Courtney Love fans – are they in love with her as she is today, or the way she was over 15 years ago? Courtney Love fans – do they all totally rate her solo output, or love her music for a handful of albums she released in the early 90s?
Whatever. I want to focus on the music. I don’t want the sideshow.
“I’m not that stupid/I just need a lot of help/To understand how stupid you are,” Courtney sings, within seconds of the opening title track, a bluesy self-lacerating lament. She sounds like Marianne Faithful, cleaned up a little. The imagery is all Goothic 16-year-old diaries, but that’s cool. The tune disconcertingly keeps wanting to slip into an Oasis song I can’t quite put my finger on.
Are those some violins I can hear? Shorn of context, yes. This song works. I can do without the references to broken dolls and whores (again!) but, it’s a good slow-burner, a tad like ‘Northern Star’. (Eric’s song, right?)
Oh god. ‘Skinny Little Bitch’ starts like someone who grew up believing all the bullshit about Exile On Main Street being a good album, and wears the ‘rock outsider’ card proudly, annoyingly. Sure, drop the guitars out so you can only hear the bass – but have a good bass line first.
It’s a horrible fucking title too. Talks about kicking scrawny ass, and drugs, and how nasty drugs are. Um. Focus on the music. Focus on the music. The music is horrible. One good track, one bad track – better than America’s Sweetheart already then!
She can’t scream like she used to. That’s ok. Cut the lady some slack, why don’t you? She’s a survivor.
We’re on to ‘Honey’ now. Just before this, I was listening to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts. I wish I was still listening to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts. This is one of those complete non-songs that argue so eloquently against the continuation of the album as a format for music. Wait, is that even an Oasis reference in the lyric!
Ah, c’mon. Finish already. This must be the song aimed at the Billy Corgan fans (i.e the completely indiscriminating)
In the comments, Sean from Drowned In Sound says he’s surprised at how much input Linda Perry had. “The queen of rock’n’roll,” huh Billy? That’ll be the Perry factor.
“I’ve lost myself completely,” the lady sings on ‘Pacific Coast Highway’. She’s not the only one she’s lost. The nicest thing I can say about this one is that it sounds like another out-take from Celebrity Skin, the third Hole album. Everything about it, I mean. The dynamics, the slowing down bit, the acoustic guitar (ugh!), the way she drawls the vocal… the producer is the same dude, right?
Ah, ‘Samantha’. My old friend. A song about a hooker trying to go clean. Ah, my old friend. “She wants to wrap her legs around this world…” What, again?
“People like you fuck people like me in order to avoid agony!” (In capital letters but I don’t have time to switch that.) Yes, damn straight, that really is a fucking great line, and just as I was about to dismiss this song as Live Through This lite. Nope, I’m willing to give Courtney this one. Another good song! What’s that? Two out of five? Not a bad strike rate. It might well be the catchiest chorus Courtney has written her entire life!
(Mandatory feedback at song’s end.) “She’s singing so fucking weird on this record,” comments Marco. “Like Chrissie Hynde mixed in with Katherine Hepburn gasping for air.” Dude! Want to take over this keyboard?!
‘Someone Else’s Bed’ is trite cliché piled upon trite cliché. Something about waking up in someone else’s bed wearing someone else’s underwear. Yes, we all know Courtney enjoys sex. I mean, she’s not exactly unforthcoming about it. This is one of those Linda Perry moments. Really substandard. Is she really singing, “Are you deaf to your balls?”
Oh wait, she’s still not spouting on about that “I never said I would die for you” line again, is she?
Now she’s sounding matronly! Nothing wrong with that, of course – and way better than pretending to be Britney Spears or Pink, but it’s disconcerting, you understand? She
‘s out crawling on glass again… that’s the great thing about Courtney’s lyrics, you know that she’s drawing from actual life here, not metaphors. I’m sorry. I don’t get ‘For Once In Your Life’. She’s so like Marianne on this one, it just makes me want to hear Marianne. But (shrugs) maybe this confessional blues in the way forward for her?
And the violins remind me of The Verve. Shudder. She’s been hanging out in England for waaaay too long.
Oh god. ‘Letter To God’. Oh god. Why does every fucking self-satisfied Hollywood-tainted fucking rock star feel like they HAVE to write a song like this if they live past 45? “Dear God/I’m writing this letter to you… I feel nothing… I never wanted to be/Some kind of comic relief/Please show me who I am”. “I’ve been tortured and scorned/Since the day I was born/But I don’t know who I am”. Oh fucking sweet Bangs. Oh fucking fucking heavens opening and weeping and letting down their light on poor, hard-done-by multi-millionairess Courtney. And why, oh why, oh why, does she thinks that if it was ok for Axl Rose to sing like this it’s ok for her? Get your Hole 2.0 cigarette lighters now so you can wave them in the air.
There’s a church at the bottom of the road which keeps changing its billboard. “‘I’ is at the heart of sin.” “Feel overlooked? How do you think God feels?” Courtney should sign up.
‘Loser Dust’ is a rock song that doesn’t rock. At all. At all. I think I’m going to blame Micko the guitarist here. I mean, seriously. Micko. How can you rock with a name like that?
Oh, and don’t you love rock stars preaching against taking drugs? Especially rock stars called Courtney Love.
My tolerance is waning. I have to admit it. ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean’… man, they must have been stoked in the product meeting when the yes-men came up with that title! She’s back to trying to sound like Courtney circa 1993. She’s much better attempting to sound like Marianne circa 2008.
Ah, it’s that idiot Corgan again, on co-writer credits with Perry and Love. She’s wrapped her legs around him, AGAIN! And he’s got no home, AGAIN! Whoa. C’mon Courtney, lyrics always used to be one of your absolute strengths.
It’s horrible, a mid-70s wash of crap.
Ah, the final ‘bonus’ track! Sweet mercy.
Ah, it’s a final ‘bonus’ track because it’s acoustic – and, one presumes, a little light relief after all the legs-wrapping and homelessness and whores-trying-hard and angel dust references and solemn pledges to God…
Ah, it’s the final ‘bonus’ track because it’s not very good.
…and… sigh… it’s self-congratulatory and filled with self-approval and… ah fuck, in another six years time she’s going to be using another name and disavowing that she ever made this album, that it was everyone else’s fault but hers, and that someone truly should have reined her in… wait, Courtney, please don’t do Bob Dylan, really doesn’t work… and that she’ll need to regroup and re-brand, and (shrugs) she could always take that Nirvana tag couldn’t she, everyone knows she was the real power behind that…
Thanks for taking part. Any further comments, suggestions, gratefully received.