Neverwednesday Nights

>> Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Happy birthday, Courtney. You've put a lot of unfortunate effort into making it hard as hell to be a fan sometimes, but some of us still love you anyway.

Hole, "Northern Star," from Celebrity Skin


Janiece Murphy Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 5:05:00 PM EDT  

Oh, Eric. My respect for your taste is music has taken a real beating this day.

*shuffles off*

Eric Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 5:49:00 PM EDT  

Her psychological and substance abuse problems aside, she's a pretty brilliant lyricist and an intense vocalist in the mold of a Patti Smith.

So you'll get no apologies or excuses from me. Celebrity Skin is a very good album. Live Through This is a fucking brilliant record.

(It occurs to me as I write this that I might have misunderstood your criticism: many Hole fans didn't like or maybe didn't get Celebrity Skin--if your comment is because you prefer the edgier, rougher prior incarnations of Hole, all is forgiven.)

If you're slagging on Courtney Love, I'm a little surprised someone who appreciates ill-behaved women wouldn't have some grudging appreciation for Ms. Love, even if she is a bit of an extreme. Yeah, in her personal life she's a train wreck and there's no good excuse for it. I wish she'd stay clean and be a better mother. But I could say similar things about a few dozen men, and at least Courtney wasn't weak enough to put a shotgun in her mouth. (There, I said it. Cobain was a helluva songwriter and guitarist, but he took an easy road and left a lot of wreckage behind him for others to sift through as best they could.)

Does this mean Hole will have to be a regular part of Neverwednesday from now on? I bumped The Godfathers when I found out it was her birthday, but I can dig up every video and concert on YouTube if needed.


Janiece Murphy Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 6:07:00 PM EDT  

Eric, I don't give a rat's ass about her substance abuse or public shenanigans. As long as she's not hurting anyone else, I have better things to worry about.

I'll take your word for it that she writes interesting and powerful lyrics - I wouldn't know because I find her to be a terrible vocalist, not worthy of my listening time.

As for being an ill-behaved woman...I think not. The mold of the ill-behaved woman (at least in the feature I write) is that you buck societal norms for the benefit of other humans, or to correct a wrong. Based on what I know (admittedly little) about Courtney's bucking of societal norms, it has little to do with a public statement, and more to do with a lack of discipline and control.

But I'm willing to be wrong if I've judged her too harshly. What do you believe is the purpose of her bad behavior?

Shawn Powers Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 7:48:00 PM EDT  

Wow, I might have to agree with Janiece on the vocalist part. She sounds like drunk karaoke to me. (To each their own, however, I rather like Randy Travis, and have taken a tongue lashing for it from time to time)

Janiece Murphy Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 7:56:00 PM EDT  

Oooh - Randy Travis - I like him! (She admits guiltily).

However, even though I like him, I'm not under any delusion that he's a fine vocalist.

Eric Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 10:54:00 PM EDT  

And where did I say "fine vocalist"? "Intense vocalist in the mold of Patti Smith," indeed. And Patti Smith is far from a pitch-perfect vocalist.

I'll be honest, while there are some fine vocalists I like, and some vocalists who I think are fine but opinions may differ (Rolling Stone once compared my beloved Kate Bush to someone trying to suck something through a vacuum cleaner hose), I don't necessarily have any use for fine vocalists unless they have something more to offer. Mariah Carey is a fine vocalist, and her work bores me to tears.

Courtney Love's raw scream is something I find heartrendingly beautiful. The ache and loss on "Northern Star," f'r'instance, is a helluva lot more powerful (at least as far as I'm concerned) than any number of frills a fine vocalist might put on a complicated melody.

I realize it may seem like a straw man--I doubt there are too many Mariah fans in the UCF. But criticizing Courtney Love for her range, tone or training is a bit like complaining about Tom Waits's singing or the Steve Jones's (of the Sex Pistols) guitar playing: it's not the point. You don't have to like it, but don't fault it for not being what it isn't.

As to Love's bad behavior: of course she's the kind of ill-behaved woman you write about, Janiece, or she was. Part of Love's problem is that she's blurred the lines too much. Part of her bad behavior used to be a kind of schtick, a kind of personal/political statement about the role of women in society generally and rock specifically. She didn't tart it up the way women are expected to (more cleavage, more leg, more hair) and frequently appeared in infantilized dress (the infamous "baby doll" dresses) and smeared makeup as a mockery of male expectation. (Per rock and roll tradition, chicks can't play guitar, but you might let them do lead vox if they're hot or maybe play keyboards in the corner if they're not--didn't you get the memo.) She was, at her best, a raging, in-your-face post-feminist, post-punk rocker: it might not be quite right to call Courtney Love a riot grrl, since she was often in some very public arguments with core members of the scene and many in the scene saw her as an opportunist (especially after Hole was signed to Geffen shortly before grunge exploded), but Love was without a doubt both a product of and catalyst for the scene that produced the movement.

The problem is that Love isn't all that stable. Sometimes her public persona was a statement and sometimes it was, as you say, a loss of control. Which isn't unusual: Love would hardly be the first smart, creative iconoclast to also turn out to have personality issues; a lot of those great ill-behaving men and women were a little (or a lot) nuts, else they would have been insurance adjusters or housewives instead of rebels and artists. What's really unfortunate with Love is that the balance has shifted to the wrong side--these days, it usually is a loss of control, tho' on her good days she can still be incisive, perceptive, and confrontational (in the good sense of it). You may not believe it, Janiece, but in the early '90s she was one of your ill-behaved women who was going to make history. And then she became a casualty.

In my original post, I admitted she's sometimes made it hard as hell to be a fan. And there's no reason you'd look at her now and see what she was. And there's no requirement that you like her work (or even that you like what she used to be in her prime); but maybe slag on her for the right reasons. Or trust that if I do have some taste in music (a proposition I really find questionable, actually), that there's maybe something to my appreciation of Ms. Love even if it leaves you scratching your head.

(Aw shit, I probably went and sounded defensive or wounded when I wasn't. I knew Hole polarized the shit out of people when I posted the video. People love or hate Hole. No in-betweens. But if you did think there was something to my choice of music....)

I think I practically wrote a second post here. Shutting up now.

vince Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 12:12:00 AM EDT  

I've never ever heard Hole until today, and never was a big Nirvana fan, either, which in my daughter's opinion is proof that there is something seriously wrong with me. But no biggie that you're a big fan and not everybody is. How boring if we all liked the same things, or thought the same way.

Janiece Murphy Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 1:33:00 PM EDT  

Eric, I think we'll have to agree to disagree about Ms. Love's status as an ill-behaved woman. I don't consider her rebellion against the male-dominated rock-and-roll scene to be in the same class as the other women I've featured - or even of Melissa Etheridge, for example.

As for my "fine vocalist" crack, I was actually poking fun at me rather than you. You're right - Courtney Love is not a fine vocalist, nor did you claim she was. I was trying (and failing) to communicate that neither is Randy Travis a fine vocalist, and yet I like him, just as you like Courtney. I tend to agree with you that some well-trained vocalist are just boring. I would describe the vocalists I've enjoyed year over year to be "interesting" rather than "fine." In my opinion, Courtney is neither "interesting" nor "fine."

And that's okay. I don't have to listen to her, and you don't have to listen to Randy Travis.

Shawn Powers Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 1:48:00 PM EDT  

Well, if you come to my house you may have to listen to Randy Travis...


Eric Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 5:03:00 PM EDT  

I drive through Randy Travis's birthplace every time I go out to the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area. (North Carolina, not Delaware.) I have no beef with Travis, aside from noting he's no Dwight Yoakam--tho' I'm not even sure why the association leaps to mind, unless it's that my Mom likes both of them. In any case, though not a Travis fan, you'll hear nary a criticism from me towards those who like him

Janiece--I hope I didn't sound too strident. I'm used to liking bands that have had low critical or popular acceptance. Hell, the only music critic who liked Pink Floyd before this century was Kurt Loder; you should see some of the reviews they used to get in the '70s.

Janiece Murphy Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 1:53:00 PM EDT  

Eric, you didn't sound strident - you're opinionated, which makes sense for a blogger.

It's all good!

Rebelcat,  Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 1:59:00 PM EDT  

Courtney is just a shadow of what she once was.

I really liked the first stuff Hole released. As with Nirvana I was thrilled to see the mainstream audience finally discovered the music I had listened to for years.
After all, Courtney Love, as well as Cobain, was heavily influenced by Babes In Toyland amongst others:

Eric Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 6:14:00 PM EDT  

Rebelcat: Good stuff--thank you!

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