Let us put aside for a moment, the media hoopla that has surrounded Courtney Love over the last 15 or so years, hard as that may be, and let us consider some of the bold musical splendour on display in her band, Hole’s, first label outing, Pretty on the Inside.
From the very first song, Love who leads the band with her lacerating tongue yelps, that “when she was a teenage whore”, how her mother confronted her, to which, she responded that she “wanted it” because “she was so alone”—in turn, forcing riot grrls everywhere, to question the relationship between youth, abuse, and sexual practice. Especially unique here is how Love and her cohorts managed to capture a sense of unapologetic, alienated female angst. When Love screeches, “I’ve seen your repulsion, and it looks good on you”, and confronts her mother, about “what she put [her] through”—one cannot help but feel compelled by the lead singer’s character. From the outset, it is obvious that Love is yearning for public attention, craving it at whatever expense, in a sense, to erase the deep-set wounds that have marred her upbringing.
Undoubtedly, pop psychologists and conspiracy theorists have latched onto these quips, using them as a means to form a cloud of targeted rage against the fame hungry rebel. Fame hungry rebel is a contradiction of terms, I know, but is entirely appropriate here. Why? Because it is the reason why we were (and some of us) still are so intrigued by Miss Love. She is a walking, talking, screeching ball of irony. For instance, when she sings about her ‘Babydoll’, she is quick to point out the conflicting subtext to its sweet exterior. The pretty doll for example, walks around “with her pants undone”, waltzes into a “Nazi car”, before Love turns around and destroys her.
Of course, the layers of irony and subtext are even more convoluted when we consider that the ‘Babydoll’ that the singer is alluding to is most likely, Love herself. So when she sings, “In the dark I destroy what I began”, “I Knife me…I slash my”, Love is inevitably tracing back to her own roots of self-loathing. This simplistic lyrical delivery is a truly remarkable feat. Her words are easy to understand, and entirely accessible. The band’s songs are catchy, and perpetually thumping with hyper guitars, and feedback-laden reverbs. And as such, they are especially easy to sing along to, which in turn, makes their content equally poignant and satirical.
But in the end, nothing on this record compares to the band’s spectacular mutilation of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Side’s Now’. A song that was always quietly despairing—Love and her team of fiery music makers have reached deep into the underbelly of sadness, and come out spitting embittered rage. When Love spurts out her final lines: “It’s life’s illusions I recall”, “I really don’t know life at all!” over Eric Erlandson’s withering guitar…one is left feeling nothing short of gobsmacked, and that my friends, is a good thing.