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“She said I am not a feminist“: Courtney Love is all out of girl love.

May 16, 2010

Full disclosure: I have long been a fan of Courtney Love and her musical output. I think Live Through This is a flawless modern rock album and Pretty On the Inside and Hole’s early singles are some pretty gratifyingly sludgey, grungey slabs of punk rock goodness. Hell, I even like some tracks off of the overly slick Celebrity Skin and there’s a halfway decent EP that could be lifted from Love’s one solo effort, the oh-so-ironically titled America’s Sweetheart. And I have often defended Courtney in debates about her merit both as a musician and a human being. Especially when it comes to people saying she killed Kurt Cobain. That always feels like some next level, Yoko Ono-meets-black widow misogynist bullshit. I also strongly dislike how public her family drama has become. The way people police how women should behave as mothers in our culture is incredibly essentialist, definitely sexist and rather nauseating. But that is a whole other blog post in and of itself. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think the woman is a saint by any means. She has absolutely no filter and should probably not be allowed to do press interviews ever. But in the 90s she was surprisingly more cogent than she has been of late and often had some true gems of feminist wisdom to share in the midst of her rants and in spite of physically assaulting a fellow feminist rocker. She also shared the stage and the recording studio with some fantastic female musicians and it always seemed to be important for her to do so, despite the somewhat adversarial relationship she always had with peers like Kat Bjelland and pretty much anyone associated with Riot Grrrl.

So you can imagine my disappointment when Ms. Love decided to blow the dust off of the long-neglected Hole moniker to form a band with none of the former members along for the ride except for her and what seems to be a bunch of dudes from central casting for a movie about sessions musicians. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Seriously, that drummer could very easily have been cloned from the DNA of about 1000 other drummers with white guy dreds. And then to add insult to injury, she had this to say about her current band choices in an interview in the latest issue of Mojo:

The reason I went to the UK [to find a guitarist] is I was listening to Neil Young And Crazy Horse in this guitar player of mine’s car and she’s not a very good guitar player, just a good girlfriend. So I needed a good girlfriend, but [songwriter and producer] Linda Perry said to me a really, terrible sexist thing. She said ‘There’s you, there’s me, there’s maybe P.J. Harvey, get over it, stop fucking hiring chicks.’ It was one of the worst things anyone’s ever said to me, but it was true. (from the print edition)

Not to sound all SNL news segment but really Courtney? Really?? You need to stop “hiring chicks”? (Let’s put aside the fact that I *loathe* that word as a euphemism for women or girls, regardless of the gender of the person whose mouth it’s coming out of) You should stop hiring people like Melissa Auf der Maur? Or people like Samantha Maloney? Or people like fucking Patty Schemel – the woman who you once said in interviews was Kurt’s second choice to be Nirvana’s drummer and who tears the living shit out of her kit on Live Through This?! (Seriously, her snare work on “Gutless” gives me such a drummergasm every time I hear it) How on earth have these “chicks” damaged your musical credibility or failed in helping you create some really great songs and albums? I would honestly love to hear your answer other than some vagueness about Linda Perry implying it.

But the most disappointing part of this is that the new “Hole” album, Nobody’s Daughter, is such a mediocre offering. Courtney seems to be trying to recapture a combination of the magic of more acoustic-based songs like “Miss World” or “Doll Parts” and the breezey, California pop-rock of “Malibu” but instead the songs just seem flat, phoned-in and plain uninspired. Not to mention the fact that she long ago shredded that wonderful, permanently raspy/I-have-a-head-cold voice of hers so songs that are spare enough to highlight it are more painful than anything. There’s a couple of rockers to be had but “Skinny Little Bitch” is so lyrically embarrassing coming from a woman who once wrote a song as vulnerable and vitriolic as “I Think That I Would Die”, a song about her first very public custody struggle over her daughter. The only track seemingly worthy of the Hole association is “Samantha”, which sounds like an outtake from the stronger parts of Celebrity Skin but sounds so utterly soulless and lifeless in the live video I posted earlier. And all of this comes from Courtney’s decision to “stop fucking hiring chicks”. Seems a tad ironic doesn’t it? You stop working with female musicians and your new music loses pretty much everything that made your old music so worth listening to.

So do you want my unsolicited advice, Courtney? First of all, stop fucking listening to Linda Perry. I don’t care how many pop hits she’s churned out for other artists. This is the woman who plagued our ears with “What’s Up?” by her unfortunate band 4 Non Blondes. Her musical advice is dubious at best. Second of all, do what you need to do to mend fences and repair bridges with Patty and Melissa and Eric Erlandson too (because we all know he was a big part of what made Hole great). Because you make great music with women at your side and you make boring-as-fuck dreck with these generic sesh dudes phoning it in behind you.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2010 7:54 am

    Very well said. A big Kurt Cobain exhibit opened at SAM this week, and I played a lot of Cobain-related material during my set Weds night. And listening to “Doll Parts” as it went out over the air, all I could think was, “What happened to this woman?” Yeah, she sometimes bugged the crap outta me, but I still miss her.

  2. May 16, 2010 2:09 pm

    Watching that “Samantha” clip explains why Courtney would choose an all-male band: they are so nondescript they won’t take any attention away from her. I mean, really… those dudes are so boring, you have no choice but to look at her for some inspiration or something. Except she looked so awkward and uncomfortable up there for the first half of the song.

    I think the definition of “hitting rock bottom” isn’t a drug addiction or bankruptcy. It’s turning to Linda Perry for advice.

    BTW: if Courtney is so against hiring “chicks” what do we make of The Chelsea (which includes Samantha, Melissa and Radio Sloan, formerly of The Need), which was referred to as “Courtney Love’s backing band”? Was that a joke, or a jab at Courtney?

    • May 16, 2010 2:34 pm

      No, I think The Chelsea was her backing band for real a few years ago when Nobody’s Daughter was going to be the next Courtney Love solo album after America’s Sweetheart. But I think that album was such a flop, both commercially and critically, that she decided to resurrect the Hole name to try and cash in on some 90s nostalgia. Except it’s such a de-fanged Hole that I can’t imagine anyone being all that psyched about it. And yes. she really does look incredibly awkward in the video. She has on all of the TV performances I’ve seen of her. The whole thing just feels so forced and phoned in and more than a little sad.

  3. May 17, 2010 3:23 pm

    I’m of the belief that Courtney’s songwriting has been going downhill for a long time now, mainly because Kristen Pfaff either co-wrote or wrote the best songs—hence the marked improvement in songs from “Pretty On the Inside” to “Live Through This.” And the new ‘band’ is pathetic. The difference in energy and sound between those two clips is incredible—I love Patty Schemel and yes, “Gutless” gives me a drumgasm too. Linda Perry probably helped pick the new players out herself. But that makes sense, because EVERYONE knows that Linda Perry is just as good a guitar player as PJ Harvey. Yeah. Okay.

    Finally, I hate to be all conspiracy theory, but Max Wallace and Ian Halperin’s book Love and Death is a very interesting read. Not completely convincing, but it does raise a whole mess of questions. I used to be firmly in the camp of “don’t accuse Courtney of murder just because you don’t like her, pig” but after reading that book, I don’t know.

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