Friday, October 23, 2009

466. Live through this- A Hole lot of Love (sorry)

Album: Live through this.

Artitst: Hole.

Year: 1994

Genre: Grunge.


1. Violet

2. Miss World

3. Plump

4. Asking For It

5. Jennifer's Body

6. Doll Parts

7. Credit In The Straight World

8. Softer, Softest

9. She Walks On Me 3:23

10. I Think That I Would Die

11. Gutless

12. Rock Star

I’m still trying to work out whether attractive women in rock get a free ride or face an uphill battle in their attempts to become stars. One thing is for sure- they’re judged by different standards, especially if they stray into the sort of angry musical territory that women are supposed to steer clear of. If a man feels frustrated and annoyed at his place in the world it’s fine for him to jump on stage and shout stroppy things into a microphone- that’s a perfectly acceptable outlet for his angst and rage. But if a woman feels like she’s getting a raw deal from life she’s supposed to lie on a couch and eat entire blocks of chocolate while watching Days of our Lives. If a girl decides to take to the stage rather than the sofa she’s a novelty in the rock world, which would either boost her over the thousands of men doing the same thing or the expectations placed on her gender would hold her back, I'm not sure which. Courtney Love is probably a good person to ask.

There are lots of people out there who want to believe that Hole wasn't so much Courtney Love's main band as Kurt Cobain's other musical act. During their respective bands most successful years, Love and Cobain were boyfriend and girlfriend (and then, after getting married in their pyjamas, they became husband and wife before finally ending up as cash cow and widow). I find it fascinating that while lots of people are prepared to credit Cobain with providing assistance to Love, nobody believes he benefited from her input. There are fans who are convinced that Live Through This was written entirely by Cobain who even played most of the instruments. They see Courtney as a woman riding on her husband’s talent, like a taller and less irritating version of Yoko Ono. But you won’t find anyone claiming that Nevermind was written by Love who used her considerable talent to prop up the career of her husband. The conspiracy theories only run in one direction.

Part of the problem is probably that Love herself is more famous than her music. I have never owned a Hole album and I’m fairly sure this is the first time I’ve heard any songs written or sung by Love, and yet I know lots about the woman. I know about her difficult upbringing, her drug habits, her marriage, I’ve even seen her breasts (it wasn’t a private viewing, she was a big fan of whipping them out at regular intervals, she's probably got the second-most famous pair of musical boobs after Madonna and just ahead of Janis).She's become more of a celebrity than a musician and so it's easy to believe that because the tabloid press treat her as a walking headline she must be as talentless as the publicity-craving clothes horses that they treat with the same cynical disdain. Just because she might appear on the same glossy page as Paris Hilton doesn't necessarily mean that she's also a talentless waste of (a small amount of) space.

The music on Live Through This follows the pattern that I believe was laid down by the Pixies (but was possibly someone else’s idea first) that mixes soft and hard in the one song. Rather than writing ballads and heavy songs, Love chooses to write light verses that she sings in her sweeter, more gentle voice followed by huge choruses that she belts out at double the volume in her big, shouty voice which starts to grate after about the third song. The whole album combines to make a big ball of angry which really gets draining after a while. Love doesn’t do angry shouting very well and it doesn’t take long until it gets painful. It’s made especially agonizing by the fact that her writing style doesn't rely on tunes so much as repeated lines. She repeats a line a few time and calls it a verse before finding a line to hammer out six times in a shouty voice to call a chorus. Sometimes there’s a bridge, usually consisting of a line repeated several times.

I started to wish the album would end after a few tracks but it kept on going. And it’s really hard to get behind some of things that she’s clearly angry about. A track called “I think that I would die” features the line “There is no milk” shouted over and over again. It didn’t take long before I was shouting back: “Then for the love of god just buy some milk! You’re husband's a millionaire- send one of the servants out to buy a bloody cow! Stop shouting the deficiencies of your grocery shopping at me I’m getting a headache!”

I have to say that when I could shut Courtney out (which I was trying to do almost all the time) I was impressed with the rest of the band. The guitar sound was really clean and the drummer was doing a lot more interesting stuff than the songs deserved. Sadly it wasn’t enough to ever make me want to hear this again.

Highlight: The occasional moments of guitar that shine through.

Lowlights: That gritted teeth feeling you get when you know Courtney is about to get shouty.

Influenced by: Patti Smith and Kurt Cobain.

Influenced: Evanescence and others like them.

Two favourite Amazon reviews for you this time, firstly this five star review: This album displays Kurt Cobain at the peak of his songwriting abilities. Stand-outs include "Violet", "Gutless", and "Softer, Softest". Listening to these songs, one can't help but wonder the artistic heights that Kurt might have achieved, had he not been taken away from us so tragically early. Also recommended: "Nevermind", "Bleach", "In Utero".

Then this One star review: This album should have been named "Hole Featuring Kurt Cobain". Thats what it is. Think about it. Just imagine Kurt Singing these songs instead of Courtney. It's so easy especially on Plump. Theres actually a version of Asking For It with Kurt singing on it. There is proof that Drown Soda and Old Age are actually Nirvana songs. In one of his last interviews, Kurt even said that Coutney tried to convince him to give Heart-shaped Box to her! This isn't a bad album, but Courtney doesn't deserve so much praise for music she didn't write.

-Poor Courtney, those who hate this album think she ruined songs Cobain wrote and even those who love it give Kurt all the credit.

So do you Love Courtney or wish she'd crawl into a Hole and die? Let me know below.

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