Thursday, 31 October 2013
Hole - Celebrity Skin (1998)
If she feels that way about it, why doesn't she just slit her throat and shut up? That's a Cristina Monet line from her deliciously sardonic reading of Is That All There Is? Love will never shut up, and here are the reasons why I am grateful for this.
Almost as if reeling from the shock of Hollywood acceptance, the inescapable title track is like a crusade to create the ultimate rock song, and succeeds. The slick and fiery temperament quite literally flows through her veins, and should have been her biggest hit of all time. It's also over before you know it, making it marvellously addictive. It sums up someone's if not her own arrival, success and tragedy in Tinseltown, but it's far too glamorous and ferociously sardonic to be morbid. She had always been out there, now she was up there.
But Britney, I'm a little bit older than you. The dizzy delirium of the spangly Awful is deliciously sugar-coated. I do enjoy the subject matter of terminally tedious teenagers of whom she couldn't be more insanely jealous of and marvel at endlessly if she tried, like Stevie Nicks meets Queen Grimhilde. The sweet texture's still carry a powerful sting, and if it's all a bit cute, Love still sounds like a thistle is stuck in her throat. The shiny pristine surfaces do not make us lose out on Love's rotten-to-the-core core. Sweet cherry - it ripens with every listen, each section bursting out yet more juice.
The hazy guitar bruises of Hit So Hard may be in debt to He Hit Me & It Felt Like A Kiss, but the haunting Gothic wordless middle-8 is luxurious and unnerving. Love's strange exhilaration always feeds off morbid dissections of this nature anyhow.
In contrast to the dizzy peaks of CS and Awful, the cinematic Malibu is a song of soft regret, Baywatch fantasies and isolation. The more obsessive lyrics elsewhere dissipate into raw deflation, miserable radiance and almost unbearable pathos. Plaintive ecstasy - it all dissolves into perfection. Pacific Coast Highway was the return ticket.
The California surf-pop sheen can only continue for so long. Not quite diving back into grunge, Reasons To Be Beautiful injects from a different needle and cleverly blurs the lines between singing of love and/or herself. Her tremendous chaos as coherence rock babble, guttural delivery and a rash of guitar blemishes every bit as aggravated as one could ask from her.
Dying. Whilst not quite a (cabbage) patch on Doll Parts, the two really shouldn't be compared. Building up until emotionally it feels like unlocking a damn for water to tumble out from.
Use Once & Destroy. The 'worst' song on here. It certainly creates a bit of a stench. The title comes from an old t-shirt Love designed herself back in the early days of the band. You can't go back now and you have to see this track through - it has stubbornly become essential. It's not as if I'd swap it for the fabulously shit Be A Man (So Impotent 12" edit) or anything.
Northern Star. For me, this was the iconic performance of Glastonbury '99. Love's panto villain act on stage, before exposing herself with such a brutal vocal was unforgettable.
The sublime unreason of Boys On The Radio strums and gristles across the highway-headed horizon as it unwinds into "endless Summer nights". The lyrics are so picturesque that the song positively describes itself. Music being performed, imagined, remembered, inhabited and most of all felt. The middle-8 is to die for, which aren't words I use lightly regarding Ms. Love. When the camp-fire cackling chorus crashes back in like waves, and it all just submerges gorgeously, the California coastline and sense of escapism couldn't be any more alive.
The sparkly Heaven Tonight, with its chugging guitar shimmers and fluttery sense of adoration for Frances, awakens a pop thirst she had always threatened to unleash before. Uh hu, uh hu.
The only song to sound a tad dated, Playing Your Song is also the only song to flare up into the full-pelt scorn and snarling vitriol of old, only with some "are you listening Madge?" Eastern stylings). A blistering exercise in loathing, restlessness, grandeur and narcissistic tyranny. Courtney is at her freefall most. This was a teenage angst classic for me.
Petals. My goodness the strings. Such lavish attention to detail is too meticulous to ignore. Not surprisingly, it's the same guy who Madonna used on Frozen who did them.
Does any other rock star enchant, arouse, intrigue, disturb, disgust and perplex as much as Courtney Love? NME said it best, she would never make another record as good as this ever again. No one else will either (well, if we're talking rock here).