Certain Songs #609: Hole – “Violet”

hole violet Album: Live Through This
Year: 1994

Now that it’s all ancient history, how does Live Through This sound?

Now that entire generations of punks and popstars and chick-rockers and controversies and drugs and conspiracies and reissues have come and gone, how does this record sound two decades divorced from the raging inferno that surrounded it?

It still sounds fucking great. Maybe even better than ever.

I mean, what did you expect me to say? I told you from the start how this would end. I’ve always been Team Courtney, having always found Ms. Love to be a fascinating — if not always sympathetic — figure who ended up making a bunch of terrific records, of which Live Through This is the terrificist.

And watch how it comes out of the gate with a deceptively quiet guitar and drums opening where Courtney sets the scene.

And the sky was made of amethyst
And all the stars were just like little fish
You should learn when to go
You should learn HOW TO SAY NO!

And with Eric Erlandson sliding his pick up the neck of his guitar, “Violet” just explodes into violence, with Courtney howling into the void like the hellhound on Robert Johnson’s trail.

Might last a daaaaaayyyyyy, yeahhhhh
Mine is forevvvvvvvvvvvvvvvverrrrrrrrrr!

(I’ve always thought that couplet was “My life’s a dare / Mine is forever”, and I was really disappointed to discover — as I was writing this — that I was wrong.)

Look, outside of all of the non-musical objections people might have to Courtney Love, I can see where the thing I love the most about her music — her voice — could be a legit turnoff. It ain’t pretty in any way, shape or form, especially when she launches a long scream and ends up away from the proper notes for the song.

But that’s the point. Like when Courtney launches into the chorus of “Violet:”

Go on take everything, take everything
I want you to
Go on take everything, take everything
I dare you to

For me, it’s impossible not to feel every single ounce of pain she’s pouring into the song. And when she contrasts the screams with a more softly-sung line, the tension is absolutely palpable, because you know she’s holding back in order to save up for another ovaries-to-the-wall scream.

Of course, in 1994, Hole’s tour in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s suicide was basically Courtney dealing with her own grief by being a lightning rod for an entire generations grief. In December of 1994, I taped a Live 105 Green Christmas performance by Hole in Berkeley, and “Violet” was fucked-up, raggedy and perpetually on the verge of falling apart.

In other words, awesome.

Official video for “Violet”

“Violet” performed live in Berkeley, 1994

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