LIVE THROUGH THIS (DGC, 1994) by HOLE was undoubtedly such a CONSEQUENTIAL album for me growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. i have distinct memories of hearing COURTNEY LOVE's impassioned, almost feral or inconsolable, primal screaming on "VIOLET" blasting out of my parent's speakers from their HONDA ACCORD. i just recall wondering who that was and never questioning how fundamentally pained and pissed-off she sounded. this felt like a private exorcism paraded as a rock song. it felt and still feels unquestionably AUTHENTIC.
which is why its always baffled me the extent to which music critics and journalists ascribe LOVE's artistic achievements with that of her late husband KURT COBAIN of legendary ALTERNATIVE ROCK band NIRVANA. its worse than lazy, its inaccurate. both IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) and LIVE THROUGH THIS were written and recorded more or less concurrently. if anything you can see the influence of LOVE in the more CONCEPTUAL and deeply personal POETIC writing of COBAIN on that final studio album in songs like "HEART-SHAPED BOX" and "ALL APOLOGIES." ive always held the conviction that LOVE was a stronger writer who has never gotten her due as such. even in "VIOLET" there is that EVOCATIVE opening couplet "and the sky was made of amethyst / and all the stars were just like little fish." that was more SOPHISTICATED and lyrical than anything on BLEACH (SUB POP, 1989) or NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991). just saying. obviously COBAIN is a generational talent and a singular songwriter/cultural figure whose approach to melody and dissonance will be analyzed long down the line, i dont want to come off like i am dismissing his achievements. only point i am trying to make is that IN UTERO is more influenced by the influence LOVE than LIVE THROUGH THIS is by COBAIN. both are landmark records and my personal favorite by both bands. hands down.
there are so many standout tracks on LIVE THROUGH THIS including the aforementioned "VIOLET" as well as singles "DOLL PARTS" and "MISS WORLD," but some of my personal favorites include "GUTLESS," "ROCK STAR," "ASKING FOR IT" and the stellar cover of the YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS track "CREDIT IN THE STRAIGHT WORLD." many of the songs deal with themes related to AMERICA's PERVERSE, UNATTAINABLE and downright PERNICIOUS CULTURAL EXPEXTATIONS regarding FEMININITY and feeling trapped by such. LOVE is such a compelling cultural figure because she is both fragile yet ferociously UNAPOLOGETIC, INTELLIGENT yet prone to impulse, loyal yet susceptible to CAUSTIC outbursts of provoked. she is such a CONTRADICTION which is to say that she is human. like all women, her FEMININITY is not confined by patriarchal prescriptions pushed on her from the news media and music press. the way i see it, she's out TOMMY LEE'd and NIKKI SIXX'd both TOMMY LEE and NIKKI SIXX. but somehow being a MOTHER, WIDOW and CARETAKER untangles such and renders her the target of scorn in the public eye. i will never understand that.
i know i did not due LIVE THROUGH THIS justice with this review, but trust me, this is a great record. it is well worth your time to check out if you are a fan of ROCK AND ROLL of any genre from the 1970s onwards that matters: PUNK ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, HARDCORE, GLAM ROCK, POWER POP and so on. it holds up and transcends most of what came out in the 1990s (and beyond) and i consider LOVE to be a singer and band leader without peer amongst her cohorts, including the likes of CHRIS CORNELL, EDDIE VEDDER, SCOTT WEILAND, BILLY CORGAN, SHIRLEY MANSON, MARK ARM, BRAD NOWELL, SHANNON HOON, LAYNE STALEY, GIBBY HAYNES, THOM YORKE, MARK LANEGAN and even her late husband.
she is ONE OF ONE and LIVE THROUGH THIS is her arguably peak creative work for both its unbridled FEROCITY and unadulterated VULNERABILITY. it is absolutely required listening.
PRETTY ON THE INSIDE (CAROLINE, 1991) by HOLE is such a BRUTAL record.
even when taking into account the intense PATHOS and TRAGEDY of front-woman/songwriter COURTNEY LOVE's later life and career trajectory, this record still stands out as an all out sonic and verbal assault on all things latently or nakedly PATRONIZING and ANTI-FEMININE. it really is quite the achievement and the palette cleanser of EXTREMITY that laid the groundwork for LOVE's public persona and unique voice in the formative ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the early 1990s. even before HOLE, LOVE had a lifetime of interesting experiences including traveling abroad and play a part in early incarnations of FAITH NO MORE and BABES IN TOYLAND, as well as acting in two ALEX COX films (SID & NANCY and STRAIGHT TO HELL). LOVE even at this stage was knowledgable and confident enough to make a record that made gore-obsessed METAL bands seem tame and cartoonish in comparison.
PRETTY ON THE INSIDE dealt with themes related to VIOLENCE, RAPE and OBJECTIFICATION that seemed designed to stare squarely back at the MALE GAZE and demand submission. standout tracks include "BABY DOLL," "GARBAGE MAN," "PRETTY ON THE INSIDE" and the blisteringly intense "TEENAGE WHORE." when i look back and consider the many industry heavyweights that have attempted to bury LOVE and drag her reputation through the mud (i'm looking squarely at you TRENT REZNOR, LYNN HIRSCHBERG, HARVEY WEINSTEIN, KORN, MARILYN MANSON, TED NUGENT and so on) is because of her formidable artistic presence and status as an equal in a world where women are taught to submit and enfeeble themselves. when i think of LOVE i am presented with a complicated artist that is the unapologetic lineage of the likes of PATTI SMITH, CHRISSIE HYNDE and, yes, even KATHLEEN HANNA (with whom she had a bizarre one-way rivalry with for reasons unknown).
the start of that story is PRETTY ON THE INSIDE. although not as polished or cohesive as LIVE THROUGH THIS (DGC, 1994) or even CELEBRITY SKIN (DGC, 1998), this record established HOLE as a creative entity and LOVE as a formidable player in what became the influential ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s. for those idiots that claim her late husband is responsible for her success, i present you EXHIBIT A for why such a notion is complete bullshit. definitely worth checking out. highly recommended.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the ALTERNATIVE ROCK icon COURTNEY LOVE!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
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photo manipulation by nacrowe
i love the idea of long-form interviews as the basis of a research project.
in fact i've made no secret, writing before (linked HERE, HERE and HERE) about my experience as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA where i spearheaded an oral history project aimed at the impact of the KOSOVO conflict on how both sides of the border dealt with the influx of refugees in 1999. it was a taboo subject internally but i thought it was information worth pursuing from the older generation (along with other unrelated topics such as life under the communist ENVER HOXHA regime) so that there was a record for future generations. similarly the questions themselves werent mine but my students at the UNIVERSITY OF VLORA where i was stationed at. my prompt to them was what questions they thought their grand-children would would want to ask their great-great-grandparents. talk about epic, a four generation question! it got them thinking in that scale and those were the questions i asked, not mine as an AMERICAN, i was just the conduit.
i came across the WOMEN OF ROCK ORAL HISTORY project recently online and i thought it was the coolest thing. the contributions of women to the cultural achievements surrounding ROCK N ROLL cannot be understated but are often overlooked.
i feel that i am guilty of this as well. when i look at past playlists for my DEER GOD RADIO show on nonprofit radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC i am often confronted with a list of male artists. while there have been past shows specifically on the RIOT GRRRL movement and prominent artists such as BJORK, KIM DEAL and LADYTRON, as well as other shows that prominently investigate female musicians and artists within wider constructs (example: CAROLE KAYE contributions with THE WRECKING CREW), there is a lack of balance that i recognize. that is something i am working on. in the future i plan to add shows focused on PJ HARVEY, COURTNEY LOVE, KRISTIN GUNDRED, LUSCIOUS JACKSON, NO DOUBT, CHARLI XCX, PATTI SMITH, JOAN JETT, BLONDIE and producer SYLVIA MASSY (MELVINS, TOOL) to the mix. it is a work in progress.
these filmed interviews with the likes of PUNK ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / NO WAVE / INDIE ROCK luminaries like ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), LYDIA LUNCH, GAIL ANN DORSEY (DAVID BOWIE), KATE SCHELLENBACH (LUSCIOUS JACKSON, BEASTIE BOYS), EXENE CERVENKA (X), DONITA SPARKS (L7), MELISSA AUF DER MAUR (HOLE, SMASHING PUMPKINS), AMANDA PALMER (THE DRESDEN DOLLS), KRISTIN HERSCH (THROWING MUSES) and SHIRLEY MANSON (GARBAGE) among many others are a great resource for all musicians to receive a fuller understanding of the real history of ROCK N ROLL. its pretty exciting since this project is still very much a current operation especially in recent months with the advent of effective COVID-19 vaccines providing an opportunity for in-person, on-camera interviews again.
the WOMEN OF ROCK ORAL HISTORY is definitely worth checking out and revisiting. what a gift to music fans.
so much of this HIT SO HARD (DA CAPO, 2017) by HOLE drummer PATTY SCHEMEL is about self-destruction. the enduring image of KURT COBAIN, a friend and former collaborator and even housemate of SCHEMEL, is seen as an example of being too far down the road of despair and drug abuse to turn back. he isn't portrayed as a victim as much as someone resided to their own fate. with SCHEMEL we see someone who took that road to its logical conclusion, losing literally everything: friends, family, financial independence, even her sexuality.
this memoir is less concerned with the story her journey from being an awkward, red-headed lesbian teen from eastern WASHINGTON who found in HARDCORE and drums her identity as it is about the harrowing depths of depravity associated with her road to recovery from opiate addiction.
her being a famous musician is only noteworthy within the arc of this book in that it showcases the cottage industry of enablers and hangers-on that provide celebrities with the means of their own destruction within the entertainment industry. i feel like reading as many biographies as i have about musicians, the recurring trope of drug abuse is a known cliche. that being said, any jadedness i had to the topic was obliterated by the honesty and clarity by which SCHEMEL dissects her actions and behavior and the wake of destruction that followed for bother her and those that cared about her.
to me this hit home, because an overriding theme of this book was kinship. the connection between musicians that is almost a surrogate family. there are surrogate families that fall apart (HOLE) and others that come and go as a means of support from friends (JULIETTE & THE LICKS, IMPERIAL TEEN). even her actual family, especially her brother and father, support her even when all was dire and hopeless. i have family and some friends that have been on similar trajectories, though nothing thankfully as harrowing as described in this book, and it feels comforting to know that an addict like SCHEMEL sees love and human connection as a means for maintaining sobriety.
and that is what makes the death of CHRIS CORNELL so poignant in this book, not just because it bookends the death of fellow SEATTLE musician KURT COBAIN. CORNELL's recovery mirrors that SCHEMEL and serves as an example that once you are an addict, always an addict. recovery is always ongoing and having a support system is your lifeline. which ultimately positions this book as being earnestly involved with the redeeming potential that hope and human connection can foster. it is easily one of the most affecting memoirs i have read to date.
artwork by nacrowe
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where we play nothing but 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.