It’s a reasonably well-documented fact that most if not all artistic people are a few sandwiches short of the old picnic basket, and before Amy Winehouse took over as music’s #1 female nutjob, there was Courtney Love. Over the past two decades, Courtney’s been labeled as just about anything you could think of: opportunist, poseur…you name it, Courtney’s been called it. However, the fact that she led the music industry in Hot Messitude during the Nineties (and she’s still up there these days) should not take away from the fact that she and her band Hole made some good music: most of which appears on 1994’s grunge-era classic Live Through This.
In retrospect, it’s pretty likely that her marriage to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain expedited the band’s signing to major label DGC (which just happened to be Nirvana’s label), but Courtney and Hole (which also featured Eric Erlandson on guitar, Kristen Pfaff on bass and Patty Schemel on drums) had paid their dues by slagging through the underground for years. Courtney had been a fixture on the L.A. rock scene since the early Eighties, enjoying vague associations with everyone from Faith No More to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, before founding Hole. They garnered some attention with an indie release called “Pretty On the Inside” before Love met Cobain. The association gave Courtney some additional notoriety (especially when she said she used heroin while pregnant with Kurt’s baby), but her association started a trend of her music almost becoming secondary to her celebrity. Which is a shame, because Live Through This is a damn good album.
A lot of the signifiers that associate music with the grunge era are here. The loud/soft dynamic is in full effect, as Courtney usually slurs the verses and shrieks the choruses. The lyrics are on the obtuse side-at least to my ears, but they certainly sound tortured enough. However, one thing that set this album apart from most records of that era was Courtney’s insistence on the music being as melodic as it was aggressive. Her sense of melody wouldn’t fully develop until her significantly more sanitized album “Celebrity Skin”, and most folks assume she had help in the songwriting process (in all likelihood from Kurt himself), but it’s a rarity in that it’s an aggressive rock album that you can actually sing along with.