I know why people hate Courtney Love. Crazy, contradictory and caustic, she’s so fake she’s beyond real. And, of course, coming from a subculture where realness equals sincerity equals artistic integrity, her fakeness and ambition give all of the people who worshiped her poor dead husband (or even her earliest music) an easy target. Yet, her goal to make a record that would cut across this most fragmented pop scene ever is strangely noble. And naïve. And no less informed by artistic integrity than, say, Modest Mouse or Silver Jews. Of course she failed — even the impact of Nevermind was probably overstated by those of us who were impacted the most, and things have just unraveled further since — leaving us with a record that has far more flaws than her brand-new body. More highlights, too.
Just as it was with Live Through This — which I always figured would be my favorite record instead of Replacements’ Let It Be if was a grrl and totally understood — I can’t really relate to likes like “When I wake up in my makeup/It’s too early for that dress,” or even “Melts in my mouth ‘til he’s nothing at all,” but I can sure as hell sing along. It’s probably not too much overstatement to call this her Tim: a lot of great songs with production that doesn’t quite fit, only it doesn’t matter so much because eventually the strength of the best tunes and smartness of the words transcend the production and filler, plus, it’s anchored by a radio song for the ages.
But like the mid-80’s ‘mats, Hole is surrounded by so much controversy and expectations and just plain swirling shit that it’s almost impossible to hear the actual music in and of itself. Or is it? My wife, who cares nothing about punk rock or indie cred or whether nor not Paul Westerberg’s upcoming record is as good as Tim (nevermind Let It Be) — and, if she worried about such things, would probably worry more about Shania selling out rather than Courtney — just about lives for the perfect pop stop-time climax of that radio song. It knocks her out every time. As do the aforementioned lines above, and pretty much this whole goddamn record. I know why people love Courtney Love.
Written for the 1998 Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll