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Proof is in the music for controversial Courtney Love


She’s a rock ’n’ roll Whack-A-Mole, something to bash for sport.

Courtney Love.

She’s a stranger to her surname, in many ways, a pin cushion of controversy.

But why?

Because she’s kind of annoying?

So are we and you’re still reading; so are your children and yet you still feed them once a day.

Maybe you’ve got issues with Love because she used to have a drug problem?

Now there’s something damnable: a musician with past dalliances with illicit substances.

Plenty of greats have dabbled, deal with it.

To borrow a line from comedy great Bill Hicks, the Beatles were so high, they even let Ringo sing a few tunes.

So, what else has Love done to earn so much ire?

Been too eager of a publicity hound?

For sure, but that same striving for attention has made household names out of far lesser talents. She just did it before the dawn of reality TV, where this kind of boorish behavior is rewarded with the magazine covers Love has always craved.

Anything else?

Love has feuded publicly with her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, sold part of her rights to the Nirvana catalog to possibly be used in ways its creators may not have intended and slung plenty of barbs at the band’s former drummer Dave Grohl for a litany of reasons ­— not for fronting the terminally dull Foo Fighters, though, for which he deserves plenty of scorn.

So, yeah, Love can get on one’s nerves from time to time, but this seems disproportionate from the amount of criticism she receives.

Isn’t there a bit of a double standard in play here?

When male rock stars act like heels, often times, it only adds to their aura.

No one has ever assailed the greatness of guys like Keith Moon, Ginger Baker or John Bonham because they were, by most accounts, total jerks.

And people still pay money to see Ted Nugent, even though that guy is nuttier than a squirrel turd.

But Love has never been one to cry sexism.

She distanced herself from the feminist riot grrrl movement that was in full swing when her band Hole debuted in the early ’90s, even going out of her way to mock that scene on “Rock Star” from Hole’s second album, “Live Through This.”

That record is one of the best of the ’90s — and isn’t that what really matters, here?

You know, the music?

“Live Through This,” released but a week after her husband Kurt Cobain’s suicide in the spring of ’94, is equally fierce and fragile, an album that flaunts its bruises as if they were beauty marks.

On it, Love sings sweetly of betrayal, motherhood, body issues and the loss of innocence before hurling her words at you as if they were extensions of her fists.

Nearly two decades later, songs like “Plump,” “Asking For It” and “Jennifer’s Body” still stand as the consummate mix of catharsis and vulnerability.

Hole’s next record, 1998’s “Celebrity Skin,” was just as great — in an entirely different way.

Swapping glamour for grit, the overcast skies of Seattle for the eternal sunshine of Southern California, the disc is as candied as its predecessor was cutting, aglow with the radiant, Fleetwood Mac-worthy melodies and choruses that shine like the stars in Courtney Love’s eyes on songs like “Malibu” and “Awful.”

Love’s image on the album cover says a lot: lean and statuesque, midriff bared, she embodies the idealized notion of feminine beauty that she had always questioned — and continued to do on the record in question.

“Miles and miles of perfect skin / I swear, I do, I fit right in,” Love sings on “Reasons to Be Beautiful,” a turbulent, tempestuous song where she acknowledges both the fleeting nature and the hollowness of the sex symbol status that she had achieved for herself.

From here, things would get a bit uneven.

Love would disband Hole and release a hit-or-miss solo album, 2004’s “America’s Sweetheart,” then reconvene the group for 2009’s “Nobody’s Daughter,” an alternately defiant and sad, confrontational and broken record that doesn’t quite match the highs of Hole’s past but still seethes and seduces convincingly.

“Don’t tell me I’ve lost when clearly I’ve won,” she sings on the title track, returning fire on her critics.

Currently, Love is back touring as a solo artist once again with plans for a new album, reportedly titled “Died Blonde.”

It sounds like she’s digging her own grave, which is fitting.

If any dirt is going to come her way, at least her fingers will be on the shovel.

“You never know what you will get,” Love sang presciently on “She Walks On Me” from “Live Through This.” “You never know what you’ll forget.”

She just knows that it won’t be her.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

 

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