Review: Hole’s ‘Nobody’s Daughter’

04.26.10 8 years ago

It’s not Courtney Love’s fault that her life is far more interesting than her music could ever be (Oh wait; actually it probably is).  Publicly, she seems to careen from train wreck to train wreck like a pinball traveling at high velocity.

On “Nobody’s Daughter,” the first album from her band Hole in 12 years, we get a Love who, while vitriolic and lacerating (often toward herself) is never as captivating as one of her rambling missives that seem to appear out of nowhere every now and then. But that doesn’t mean the whole exercise is a wash. Far from it.

But first, let’s clear up this whole Hole thing. Love is the only remaining member after guitarist/co-founder Eric Erlandson decided he no longer wanted to be in the Hole business close to a decade ago. So “Nobody’s Daughter,” which has precious little of the pop sheen displayed on 1997’s “Celebrity Skin,” is really Love with a few musicians that most folks have never heard of before now.

Love does nothing by half measures—nothing worth talking about, at least–so some of the album’s best moments are the dramatic flourishes the lyrics provide when she’s bringing the crazy. On “For Once in Your Life” she sings, “I’ve used the last hole in my arm to gouge out the pieces of you.” That’s amazing imagery. On “Samantha,” an otherwise dullard of a song, she spits out “People like you f*** people like me” in a voice that is as resigned as it is angry and exhausted. Who can’t relate to that?

The most touching tune is ballad “Letter to God,” in which Love confesses her sins in a way that is manipulative, vulnerable and compelling all at the same time. “Oh God, please tell me now are you disappointed or are you proud… I’m so sorry I’m so weak/that I turned into a freak…I am coming unglued/Please help me… I never wanted to be the person you see…Thank you.” Hello, God. It’s me, Courtney.

At her best, Love says what the rest of us are too afraid to voice out loud, or, in some cases, even admit we think.

Musically, “Nobody’s Daughter” features fairly straight-ahead rock and roll with the usual tropes of starting slowly and the speeding up or getting louder toward the end of the song to symbolize heightened passion, Certain tunes, including first single, “Skinny Little Bitch,” and “Loser Dust” come roaring out of the gate to strong effect. Is it just me or does the guitar on the title track remind anyone else of Camper van Beethoven’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men?”

There are also times when the whole effort falls apart, such as on “Honey,” where Love talks about opening up, but then just resorts to screeching to get some point across that I still haven’t deciphered. Plus, her vocal delivery is so mannered; it often sounds more like a phonetics tutorial gone awry. I’m still trying to get my head around album closer, “Never Go Hungry” in which Love, accompanied primarily by an acoustic guitar, would seem to be channeling her inner Scarlet O’Hara as she declares, “I don’t care what it takes my friend, I will never go hungry again.” Perhaps it’s a metaphor for her travails through the music business, although unlike many of her counterparts, she has survived… no matter what. God as her witness.  


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