Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Hole, "Nobody's Daughter" (Mercury) 1 star

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Love her or hate her, the one thing everyone could agree on about Courtney Love through the first third of her career was that she was never boring. Personally, I can defend the Babes in Toyland/Sonic Youth-like noise-rock of "Pretty on the Inside," the 1991 debut by her band Hole, as invigorating chaos (though the songs were best appreciated live), while "Live Through This" (1994), the album released just as the world was mourning the loss of her husband Kurt Cobain, remains hands-down one of the most powerful discs of the alternative-rock era.

But Courtney hasn't really been Courtney on record since. She experimented with lame California lite-rock fluff on "Celebrity Skin" (1998), slept-walk (or strolled while under the influence of Lord knows what) through "America's Sweetheart" (2004) and then spent the rest of the decade distracted by a never-ending series of controversies, lawsuits, stints in rehab and custody battles. As a result, there now exists an entire generation of rock fans who know her only as a train wreck and a punch line--rock's answer to Carol Burnett's gin-addled Miss Hannigan in "Annie."

Hosed down with a thoroughly generic hard-rock sheen and meticulously crafted with the help of hack songwriter for hire Linda Perry (a slightly hipper Kara Dioguardi) and former beau Billy Corgan, the 11 songs on her attempted comeback "Nobody's Daughter" not only lack the memorable melodies and potent drive of "Live Through This," but show little evidence of what was once a highly nuanced and strongly symbolic lyrical wit. (Cobain often has been credit for giving Love some of the best melodies on her classic album, but it's often glossed over that he himself said that his wife helped him hone and improve his own lyric writing.)

No, I am not expecting the now 45-year-old singer to crowd-surf or otherwise court death nightly on stage the way she once did. But certainly she could have mined the pain and drama of recent years to prompt something more than the depressing yawns and vitriol-laced but ultimately hollow bursts of bombast such as "Skinny Little Bitch," "Someone Else's Bed" and "How Dirty Gets Clean." Rather than reasserting herself as a force to be reckoned with, Love now just makes me yearn to hit eject and listen instead to the latest from the Vivian Girls or the Screaming Females, both of whom could eat this latest version of Hole for breakfast.

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4 Comments

You originally said that "America's Sweetheart" was "an album that places a close second to 1994's masterful 'Live Through This.'" So which is it? Did she sleep-walk through it or make a masterful album? What's with the backtracking 6 years later?

Yep Amy's right.

"...anyone who's able to set aside the many distractions she's created will be rewarded with some of the best music of her career, an album that places a close second to 1994's masterful "'Live Through This.'".

Goes on like that too. A **** rating.

I admire critics who change their opinions about records they've previously written about. So the least you could do Jim is admit to changing your mind and explain why you feel the way you do now about "America's Sweetheart" rather than reversing your opinion to fit the narrative flow of a current review without further comment.

Which view of the record is most accurate?

Thanks Jim.

Sorry if I came off harsh but I enjoy your writing a great deal and, as you said yourself, there's absolutely no problem with a critic's evolving view of the material he's tasked to write about.

I was just confused by your about face. I think you sell yourself short when you don't write about the changing attitudes you have towards records and artists. People need to hear it if only to acknowledge their own evolution as listeners and how a record can "grow in stature or shrink" as you put it.

All the best,

Neal

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on April 22, 2010 10:21 AM.

Roky Erickson, "True Love Cast Out All Evil" (Anti-) was the previous entry in this blog.

Fifteen years, hundreds of great concerts and, as the Velvets said, the ideal of a life saved by rock 'n' roll is the next entry in this blog.

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