Hole were a dynamic alternative rock band ruled by the passion and ego of their frontwoman, Courtney Love. The band’s volatile, vulnerable music reached its peak with 1994’s Live Through This
, but Love struggled to come up with material as cathartic after that, focusing more on celebrity than on songwriting. The group eventually broke up, and Love pursued an unsuccessful solo career, but her standing as one of the leading female artists of the 1990s is without question. Love reactivated Hole in 2009, even though the band’s lineup barely resembled the one from the group’s heyday.
Hole formed at the end of the ‘80s in Los Angeles, thanks to a meeting between vocalist/guitarist Courtney Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson. Other band members would come and go, but Love and Erlandson proved to be the band’s two anchors, contributing the bulk of the songwriting. Soon after their formation, Hole signed with Caroline Records to distribute their debut.
A Noise-Rock Debut:
Hole’s first album, 1991’s Pretty on the Inside, began the band’s interest in exploring different distinct sonic identities for their records. In the case of Pretty on the Inside, Hole sought to emulate the noise-rock associated with Sonic Youth – tellingly, the album was co-produced by Sonic Youth bassist and singer Kim Gordon. Defiantly underground in its approach, Pretty on the Inside was not a strong seller but established Love as a punk-rock pinup unafraid to reveal her insecurities in a male-dominated rock world.
A Mainstream Breakthrough:
After Pretty on the Inside
's release, Love met and married Nirvana
frontman Kurt Cobain, which made them the king and queen of the alt-rock universe. By the time of 1994’s Live Through This
, Cobain had committed suicide, which only elevated Nirvana’s stature and raised expectations for Hole’s album. Live Through This
, which was recorded before Cobain’s death, reflected Love’s interest in a more melodic grunge-rock sound. Critics accused of her jumping onto the alt-rock bandwagon for her own purposes, but the album’s breakout success made Hole one of the most popular bands of the mid-‘90s.
Grunge Goes Hollywood:
Hole would not release a new studio album for four years, and after some delays Celebrity Skin
finally was released in the fall of 1998. A sleeker, pop-friendly album, Celebrity Skin
echoed Love’s transformation from a grunge goddess into Hollywood royalty. (Between Live Through This
and Celebrity Skin
, Love made a high-profile appearance in the film The People vs. Larry Flynt
.) With several songs co-written by Smashing Pumpkins
leader Billy Corgan, Celebrity Skin
was well-crafted and radio-friendly, but it lacked the incisiveness that had made Hole’s records so gripping in the past.
Hole Break Up:
Hole broke up early in the 21st century, leaving Love free to record solo material. 2004’s America’s Sweetheart tried to play up her drug-addled, drama-queen persona, which had been boosted by tabloid reports of her excessive antics, but the music lacked coherence, veering from metal to punk to pop without much confidence in any genre. An album that’s more fascinating than it is accomplished, America’s Sweetheart failed to make a dent on the charts, suggesting that Love’s popularity had faded.
Hole Get Back Together? Sorta:
Courtney Love labored over her follow-up solo disc, Nobody’s Daughter
, for several years, and in 2009 she decided to put out the album under her old band’s name. Working with Micko Larkin, a London guitarist, she released the record on April 27, 2010, even though none of Hole’s original band members participated in its making.
Pretty on the Inside
Live Through This
Ask for It
The First Session
My Body, the Hand Grenade
(outtakes collection) (1997)
Courtney Love, on Live Through This.
"It was so easy to make that I get surprised by the effect it had on people. But, you know, all good rock is easy. The riffs just came, and they were fresh from chords that I'd learned from [Billy] Corgan and Kurt [Cobain]. I wrote 'Doll Parts' in five minutes." (Spin, Oct. 2005)
Courtney Love, on being a feminist.
"I'll always prefer to play with women and hang out with women, and I'll always be a feminist. But let me tell you something. Gloria Steinem never helped me out; Larry Flynt did." (Spin, Oct. 2005)
- Bassist Kristen Pfaff, who worked on Live Through This, died of a drug overdose shortly after the album's release in 1994.
- Courtney Love appeared in the 1986 film Sid and Nancy about Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
- Hole was part of the 1995 edition of Lollapalooza, which also featured Sonic Youth.