It stuns me just a little to think that there’s probably an entire generation of people who have no idea who Courtney Love is. Her last album, a “solo” effort released under her own name, was 2004’s “America’s Sweetheart”, the title of which was intended as irony. See, if you’ve not read a tabloid magazine in the past several years, you’ve been missing out on this epic saga involving rampant drug use, rehab, child custody battles and a number of other prim and proper things that Courtney has been associated with. Most recently she’s attracted attention for bizarre rants she’s posted on her website and Facebook, perhaps the most notable being the time(s) she accused Ryan Adams of borrowing a whole bunch of money from her and never paying it back. Courtney Love. She’s always the victim of some injustice. As much as she’d like to try, things never seem to go well for her.
I suppose that wasn’t the case back in 1994, when her band Hole released their seminal album “Live Through This,” a record made that much more powerful due to the death of her husband, the legendary Kurt Cobain, mere months before. It also presented Love as a brash and powerful female figure with an emotional core at the center we had never seen before. Between thrashers like “Violet” and sad/vulnerable tracks like “Doll Parts”, Hole was one of a few groups at the time proving that chick rock was both in your face and awesome. In that way, Courtney Love is a pioneer who despite all her problems deserves your respect, at the very least for knowing how to put on one hell of a live show. Now, after a trip to rehab a few years back and numerous false starts, the bitch is back and she’s moved back to the old band name Hole. Of course Hole is essentially a different band now, given that Love is the only original member still left, but they’ve got their first official album since 1998’s “Celebrity Skin” and the first new music from Courtney Love in 6 years. The record is titled “Nobody’s Daughter,” and you’ll be able to buy it starting tomorrow.
The first thing you may want to know about “Nobody’s Daughter” is that many of the songwriting credits are shared between Love, her friend/Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan, and former rocker-for-hire Linda Perry. Why it takes these three people to get this record in any sort of shape to be deemed fit for release, and why it took so long to put together in the first place (this album has been delayed time and time again over the past few years) is something of a mystery. After all that reported hard work and struggle, that this record flails and falters at most of its turns can either be described as surprising or completely expected. You can say it’s surprising because Love has been on a straighter and narrower path than she’s ever seemingly been on recently, and that she’s been pulling herself together probably meant she’d have a halfway coherent album too. You can also say that given all her past problems, it’s no wonder the new Hole record would turn into a train wreck with or without the help of her popular friends. Then there’s the notion that because of her messed up life the last several years, these songs might have the raw and visceral power a record like “Live Through This” had, because she could very well deal with the tough emotional rollercoaster she’s been on. Unfortunately the album doesn’t deliver on that promise, and in the end its really only Love’s voice that continues to hold any sort of strength on a record filled with weaknesses.
So what’s the biggest issue with “Nobody’s Daughter”? Well, plain and simple, it’s an over-produced piece of leftover 90’s alternative trash. Last time I checked, it wasn’t the 90’s anymore, nor is it the 00’s, so to push a loud and brash guitar record like this feels outdated and an attempt at manufactured nostalgia. This album fits right in with the rest of Hole’s catalogue, and while a gem of an album like “Live Through This” sits among that pile, at least that had its share of compelling songs that not only stuck in your head but slapped you around emotionally. “Nobody’s Daughter” lacks real sincerity for the most part, save for a couple songs like “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Letter to God”. First single “Skinny Little Bitch” isn’t horrible either, if only because it’s one of the catchier songs in Hole’s oevure. Other than those small victories, there’s little else I like about this album, though I’ll admit that Courtney seems like she really tried hard to make the best record possible. I just happen to think that her idea of what constitutes a great album might be a little off compared to today’s standards. Invest some time and effort in “Nobody’s Daughter” if you like, but I can’t quite advocate picking it up.