When recording Hole’s raw, gritty debut Pretty On The Inside, Courtney Love apparently gargled whiskey to give her voice an edge. This trivia gives you some idea of the aural assault you’re in for when listening to the band. A life truly lived, and not always in comfort and splendour, comes through very strongly, as Love develops the groundwork laid by her friend Kat Bjelland, of the wonderful Babes In Toyland.
Two tracks made the Phantom Fifty: Burn Black (FF 1991 #7) was originally released in the UK on Sub Pop as the B-side to Dicknail, and according to JP, was originally called ‘Black Burn’. The bass is slung low, the guitar smoulders, and the lyrics spit venom, alternately growled and screamed: ‘Hey hey, this much is true: I never trusted you…I’m trying just to forget’.
No relief from the cathartic atmosphere is offered by Teenage Whore (FF 1991 #10). This was the only single from the album: it plunders America’s waking nightmares and comes up with a grim view of growing up, fuelled by Love’s troubled past, including her parents divorcing while she was young, and her father being accused of giving her LSD when she was three years old.
A more melodic, but no less harrowing, landscape is on view in the first single from Live Through This, the disturbing Miss World (FF 1994 #17) [the video can be seen here]. By this point, Courtney had been through a two-year marriage to Kurt Cobain: the album was released just four days after his (alleged) suicide. Moreover, bassist Kristen Pfaff died of an apparent heroin overdose six months later. Against this backdrop of pain, the song paints a vivid picture of alienation and the disorientation at being placed on a musical pedestal.
Love’s story from then on is a curious mix of critically-praised albums and a downward spiral into a series of violent, drug-related incidents. Her appearance at the Reading Festival prompted JP to write:
The band teetered on the edge of chaos, generating a tension which I cannot remember having felt before from any stage.
One hopes that her new band (Hole were dissolved in 2002) will scotch her hell-bound journey for good.
I surrounded myself with women when I was growing up because I had this horrible psycho father. Now I’m trying to really appreciate and like men more. [Courtney Love]