Courtney Love is a liar and a thief--and those are just two of her outstanding virtues. She's a liar in the way all women lie, or rather, she's made it her project to uncover the endless ways femininity requires women to ignore their own insticts, conform to artificial standards, and subsume themselves within definitions that strangle as they fit. She's a thief, because she's cobbled together a persona from these deadly definitions, leaving enough gaps in the fabric to show that the ladylike is never so neat as it appears. Those seams break, in women's rage, self-destructiveness and loss of control, and in the brutality of men and the abusive family. A first listen to Hole's songs indicates that Love's obsessions lie within this seamy underbelly of the domestic circle. But do as she asks, and live through them for a while, and you'll discover that there's no bottom here, that the layers of deceit and perversion hide only more layers. The feminine spirit that Love embodies is one whose very core betrays itself. Love mostly screams her way through Pretty On The Inside, and although it's a versatile scream, it only hints at the depths of musicality reached on Live Through This. Obviously. Love and hubby Kurt Cobain influenced each other musically, and like Nirvana's best, this album blends the hardest edges of punk with a sweet, singalong tunefulness. But while Cobain used punk to fight against his innate accessibility, Love pursues pop impulses to overcome her limitations as a singer. Live Through This rocks in the sickiest way possible. Indie bands with more innovative surfaces don't compare to this wholly accesible, yet very inticate, mix of words and music. Love projects herself into scenarios that could be her own, but resonate as classic tales of women's oppression: bulimia in "Plump", rape in "Asking For It", childhood abuse in "Softer, Softest", frustrated mother love in "I Think That I Would Die". Sure the line, "They really want you, but i do too", in "Doll Parts" is about her and Kurt, but all the other lines, about artifice and its costs, trancend such a narrow view.


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