Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A+ essay by Slate's Amanda Fortini on Courtney Love -- the rock artist who made Hole's Live Through This versus the tit-flashing train wreck. Fortini calls this classic Hole album "a seminal work in alternative music made by women" and goes on to describe it with considerable depth; she also mentions in passing that Hole's first, Pretty on the Inside, "was called `the most compelling album of the year' by The New Yorker in 1991 and was recorded with Hole before she met Cobain—a fact worth noting since it is often said that he masterminded her music."

I like to think I was one of the first people to really catch on to the power of Hole's debut disc, in this state anyway. I first read about in what became a rather famous profile of Love and Cobain in Vanity Fair -- famous because it highlighted the couple's drug use and made an easily persuasive (not to mention prophetic) case that Cobain's pregnant junkie bride would make an unfit mother -- and bought it not long after; the snotty clerk at Sounds Familiar (wire-frames, thought he knew everything, long since gone, thank God) had never heard of the band and thought maybe I meant someone else. I think I had to hit a much hipper store, like Manifest or Papa Jazz, to track it down. Anyway, I knew as soon as I popped it in the Walkman that it was a real original: one of the most purely savage records I've ever heard, and one that would be very easy to hate -- and which, to this day, is very easy to pass up when you're looking for something to listen to -- were it not for the fact that it's also so blazingly, blisteringly personal, alternately fascinating and alienating. Love screams in your ear all the way through it and the band matches her note for note.The ironic title sums it up perfectly, I think: this is the real, raw, unpleasant, ugly, yearning, groping, grasping me. It's a noisy, noisy, noisy record and the only thing perfect about it is its realization. It starts with "Teenage Whore" and it ends with a paint-peeling version of "Both Sides Now" -- a brilliant way to go out, too: when Love sings "I really don't know love at all," you sense someone who has drained herself dry trying to find out.

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