The monumental goth of the foreboding opener Nobody's Daughter is a swirling elixar as Love's vampiric wail splinters like ash. Courtney's tormented and glamorous vocal sounds gorged away, with her lyrical prowress never not managing to convey a lost sense of the unspeakable. 3:48 is not the first time Oasis' Wonderwall is strummed, and just what is that fucking song those strings are remembering - it's not R.E.M is it?
Being flung head first into hungry first single Skinny Little Bitch can be seen a mile off, only when it speeds up is anything remotely interesting generated from it's wasteland grunge. The raw melody delivers traces of Pretty On The Inside and 'matter' directly purged from the gut of Live Through This album track Plump, but her throat's too gone to go anywhere near full pelt. Tolerable, but it's not worthy to even be stood on when compared to Celebrity Skin
The pale distress of Honey is sympathetic to her ravaged vocals. 'Oh how he brings me down' from Aerosmith-lite cigatette-lit ballad Hold On To Me is screamed as 'he goes down, down to his bitter end' with break-schreeching vocals managing to gain just enough control. Sighing vexation: sweet as honey, and voice like tree bark.
The very Boys On The Radio/Malibu surf-guitar deflation of the anthemic Pacific Coast Highway is almost joyful in its wistful aching 'for what I'll never have'. Coaching belief, 'your who-ah whorr'l is in my hands' is a proud bittersweet moment, stumbling into something out of reach but felt nevertheless. 'Miles and miles' of reasons to be beatiful is now 'miles and miles' of regrets. The fuzzed-up riffs are breezy and resonant with the rock icon's unmistakable sense of elegance: backing vocals fly you into the waves to drown and be reborn.
The singer's angst-wrecked vocal turn on many of the tracks works best on her defining Stevie Nicks-zeitgeist cautionary Samantha, which is bruised rather than scorned. Burns out with a perfectly entitled chant: 'people like you fuck people like me'. Who is she fucking then - the Joker? Admittedly awesome, let's just pretend we've forgot she's 45 and close the windows if we have to. Singing about 'ether' again is a nice touch as well.
Seductive without warning, the bluesy Someone Else's Bed waifts through dark-lit air, ashtray vocals. Despite it's lethargic energy, her sheer pop skill transcends her rugged indulgences. Howling like someone stuck a burning hot poker down her throat, 'I've got the cure for it all' is this album's centre of the universe moment. And 'I want to watch The View' wasn't even brought up when she was actually on The View - I guess those harpies were more concerned trying to bring up her daughter (which the amusingly failed to get Courtney to answer).
Courtney's confessional lyrics are reliably good value, but there isn't much sonic depth so when the songs are wanting the pensively appealing sense of deflation the lack of colours to the music can be a chore. Lacking anything as all-conquering as the scandalising riff from Celebirty Skin, Violet's cold air chills or even Awful's amazingness, Love's grousing works surprisingly well on the softer moments such as For Once In Your Life's broken resolve. For the parade of swooning melodies perched onto the album's first half, the latter end isn't quite as much cop. For those convinced courtney's last hurrah was Celebrity Skin or, even more annoyingly still, Live Through This 16 years ago, perhaps Nobody's Daughter might not persuade otherwise, but this is a new Hole and it's pretty tight, brittle but still capable of beautiful even if Linda Perry isn't. With her new-again vocal cadences, Courtney is still made of stern stuff.