’s Live Through This
arrived on record shelves just days after Kurt Cobain, husband of Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Perhaps unfairly, that tragedy will provoke listeners to pour over the lyrics of Live Through This
looking for clues into the couple’s relationship, but if so they’ll be disappointed. Rather than a tabloid account of a celebrity rock-star marriage, Live Through This
finds Love delving into herself, exposing her many flaws while demonstrating a thoughtful, troubled soul.
Borrowing From the Nirvana Playbook but Adding Her Own Spin
Some will attribute Hole’s commercial success to Love riding the coattails of her famous husband. But while Live Through This
can’t match Nirvana
’s masterpieces, Nevermind
and In Utero
, it does argue that Love and her band have skills to burn, melding punk energy with mainstream rock song structures. One of the best things about Live Through This
is that while it borrows a page or two from the Cobain playbook, Love manages to step out on her own with songs that are, by and large, sweeter and sadder than her husband would attempt. On the album, Love emerges as a frustrated, conflicted woman – she’s enraged about the sexist world around her, but she’s honest about how her own self-destructive tendencies trip her up as well.
A Compelling Voice
before her, Love’s greatest subject is herself, but she keeps from sounding like a raging narcissist by being a compelling protagonist in her songs. Tracks like “Doll Parts” and “Asking for It” discuss Love’s mixed emotions about needing to feel worthy and desirable in the eyes of men – there’s a palatable sense of melancholy in her vocals, but also a sense of resignation that her looks are the only way she can compete in a male-driven society. Where many grunge bands would bludgeon these songs with feedback and heavy riffing, Hole allow them to be delicate and unadorned so that when the guitars do finally surge to life, there’s true transcendence.
Singing About the Plight of All Women
While Love often casts herself as a victim on Live Through This
, she’s shrewd enough to know two things: (1) There’s a part of her that enjoys the high-maintenance drama of her life; and (2) she recognizes that other women have it much worse. “Miss World” ties a deceptively candy-coated melody to a sad tale of drug abuse and distorted body image as Love hits upon a familiar theme of the album: the dichotomy of how ugly you feel on the inside while trying to appear beautiful to others. Male rock stars rarely have to worry about their attractiveness to their audience, but Love understands that she’s not so lucky, and “Miss World” exposes that double standard. Later, on “Jennifer’s Body,” Love sings about a woman physically brutalized by her lover. With bile in her voice, she turns the song into a diatribe on male aggression. While many bands such as Pearl Jam
and Nirvana have written eloquently about the evils of oafish men abusing their women, their songs don’t have the same impact as Love’s does – she adds extra layers of sensitivity and sympathy.
Feeling Comfortable in the Spotlight
Courtney Love will probably never be able to separate herself from the shadow of her late husband, but Live Through This
argues that she’s a strong songwriter in her own right. In a rock environment that still shows little interest in female performers, it’s gratifying to see that one of the most visible can make an album this confident and distinguished.
“Miss World” (Purchase/Download
“Doll Parts” (Purchase/Download
“Asking for It” (Purchase/Download
Release date – April 12, 1994