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Hole – ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ Review

courtney love holeCourtney Love of Hole

Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images.

Nobody’s Daughter, Hole’s first album in 12 years, gives frontwoman Courtney Love the comeback she’s desperately needed after a decade in which her non-musical shenanigans drew more attention than her creative endeavors. Though not as volcanic or incisive as Hole’s masterpiece, 1994’s Live Through This, Nobody’s Daughter distills Love’s combative, feminist essence into streamlined alt-rock songs that are instantly engaging. Much like Chinese Democracy, Nobody’s Daughter is an album where its creator’s personality is almost as compelling as the music itself.

Getting the Band Back Together in Name Only

Hole haven’t been a functioning band for about 10 years. After their breakup, Love embarked on an unsuccessful solo career and had been developing the songs on Nobody’s Daughter over a span of years, which included a decision in 2008 to completely scrap what she had come up with to that point and start fresh. Then in ’09, she announced that Nobody’s Daughter would be released as a Hole album, although she hired a whole new band that included none of the old members. This decision raised a lot of eyebrows, especially since original guitarist Eric Erlandson was a co-writer on the tracks from Live Through This and its follow-up, Celebrity Skin, suggesting that he was a key contributor to those albums’ success. Nonetheless, Love recruited new guitarist Micko Larkin to help write and produce material for Nobody’s Daughter, as well as bringing in Linda Perry and Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan for additional creative assistance. As a result, even before Nobody’s Daughter came out, people were wondering how much of a Hole album this really was.

A Kinder, Gentler Courtney Love?

In comparing it to Hole’s earlier work, Nobody’s Daughter is closer in temperament to Celebrity Skin than the band’s rawer previous work. There’s a slick polish provided by producer Michael Beinhorn (who also worked on Celebrity Skin) that moves the album away from Hole’s grunge/punk roots and toward a more mainstream aesthetic. Tellingly, although Love drops the F-bomb throughout the raging “Samantha” and titles another up-tempo number “Skinny Little Bitch,” Nobody’s Daughter overall lacks the fierce rage that marked the band’s previous records. Instead, the mood is more subdued, determined and melancholy. At 45, Love has mellowed some – and her voice has definitely lost some of its bark – but that doesn’t mean Nobody’s Daughter is a timid or toothless record. Rather, she’s trying to balance her anger with more melodic music.

Love Takes Center Stage

As has been the case on her previous records – whether they be Hole albums or her solo disc, America’s Sweetheart – the central theme of Nobody’s Daughter is Love herself. Of course, many performers sing about their personal experiences, but Love’s self-examinations have a drama and theatricality her contemporaries’ lack. (It’s no surprise she would be interested in acting.) And is in the case of Chinese Democracy, which in some ways felt like Axl Rose’s album-length rebuttal to the world, Nobody’s Daughter plays like a state-of-the-union address for Love as she casts herself as a martyr (“Nobody’s Daughter”), a lost soul (“Letter to God”), and the scrappy underdog (“Never Go Hungry”). What this means is that to enjoy Nobody’s Daughter you have to find Love as fascinating as she does. Thankfully, she remains a fiery character, and the music she and her co-writers have concocted is pleasingly feisty and tuneful.

‘Nobody’s Daughter’ – Bottom Line

Nobody’s Daughter is a bit top-heavy, with several of the best tracks lumped near the beginning. The yearning “Nobody’s Daughter” kicks off the album on a high note, soon followed by the somewhat formulaic “Skinny Little Bitch,” the stripped-down ballad “Honey,” and the ‘70s-style singer-songwriter lament “Pacific Coast Highway.” From there, the album still has some strong moments, particularly the ballad “For Once in Your Life” and the snorting “Loser Dust,” but Nobody’s Daughter starts to get clogged up with repetitive thematic and musical motifs. If the first half of Nobody’s Daughter reminds us what made Courtney Love so vital 15 years ago, then its second half’s mediocre stretches highlight the limitations of her me-me-me sensibility. Still, despite its faults, Nobody’s Daughter argues that Love may have regained her bearings, giving her fans a reason to feel optimistic about her future for the first time in several years.

May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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