Hole’s ‘Live Through This’

There is an unfortunate video making the rounds today of Courtney Love performing “Celebrity Skin” sometime in 2010. Her guitar and vocals are isolated and, shall we say, they do not sound good.

Well, here.

It’s an unfortunate performance to be sure, and fortuitous to be making the rounds just when I’ve been revisiting Hole’s breakout Live Through This.

This is quite a respectable work, maligned as it was at the time with the accusation that Mr. Cobain was responsible for it. I don’t buy that for a minute. Because its voice throughout is quite distinctive from that of Nirvana’s. Its imagery is uniquely feminine. And that’s something you just don’t hear in rock. Some of my favorite performers are led by females but don’t come close to capturing what Love does in her songwriting.

My favorite cut is probably due largely to the work of the late Kristen Pfaff, who plays the heck out of the bass on this thing. “Credit in the Straight World,” baby.

The album as a whole, though, is a big beautiful house of horrors, all from a decidedly feminine perspective. Or, as manager Mark Kates says in this oral history:

I remember sitting in that very small rehearsal room watching them and thinking, “No one knows how great this is. No one I work with has any idea how great an album this is going to be.” That was really special. I knew it would blow people away.

Influences I conjured up when giving this a rewind are rarely mentioned in connection with Live Through This, but I’ll say it anyway: Lookin’ at you, Liz Phair. Lookin’ at you, Velvet Underground.

Yes. I know it’s a cover.

I don’t think the band’s name means what you think it means. If anything, Courtney Love seems to think that the most obvious um, reference, is, well, a bit accidental.

In Euripedes’ Medea, when she kills the bride and her own child, she says “There’s a hole that pierces my soul.” [And] my mother’s this kind of new age psychologist, and I said “You know, I had this terrible childhood,” and she said “Well, you can’t have a hole running through you all you time, Courtney.” You know, and then [there’s] the genital reference, go ahead and make it if you will.

So there you have it.

Besides. Without Hole there might not be a Screaming Females:

“I would go home and print out tablature online for Hole songs I’d just make it up and figure it out. I don’t really know anything about music theory and I don’t know scales or anything… except for a couple basic things.” (Marissa Paternoster, in Rolling Stone)

And we all know what a cold, barren planet this would be with no Screaming Females, don’t we?