Part 25 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

“There were so many things I wanted to say to him, so many questions I wanted to ask. But Eddie and I, we had a deal, we never talked about the future. We thought the present was so fine, why ruin it by planning ahead? But as Eddie drove off, I knew, I knew it then, it wasn’t gonna be any future. In the morning, they told me that Eddie was gone…” – Joanne Carlino in the film Eddie and the Cruisers talking about her relationship with Eddie Wilson, the lead singer of the fictional band Eddie and the Cruisers.

In April 1994 the music world was changed forever when the body of Kurt Cobain was discovered in his Seattle, WA residence. I was in 11th grade and remember a numbness in the hallways of school. The iconic singer of Nirvana – dead. Unbelievable. Though in some hip circles Nirvana had ceased to be cool the moment the mainstream media picked up on the grunge movement, I always reserved a special place for them in my  heart. I will never forget watching the news, listening to Courtney Love reading portions of his farewell note, along with her profane asides. An emotional day for Kurt’s fans, one can only imagine what Courtney was feeling (I will state right here that I do not buy into any conspiracy theories). One other thing – Courtney’s latest album with her band, Hole was set to come out just a few days after these events.

When I first heard Live Through This I was stunned at the autobiographical nature of the tunes. Courtney screamed her demons out, reminding me of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. Though the record had been recorded in late 1993 it seemed to discuss everything that had taken place in the spring of 1994. There is dark humor lurking beneath the white noise and pronounced pain throughout. Don’t let that scare you though – the melodies are some of the strongest of the grunge era (if not any era). It is impossible to discuss this record without discussing Kurt Cobain, but make no mistake – this record would be a masterpiece with or without the complicated back story.

Go on, take everything

Violet – The album starts off with a Nirvana-ish track that features the verse / chorus / verse structure that Kurt lived by (mocked). It is also a stunning display of nuanced emotion. Courtney’s vocals alternate between a sweet girl and screaming her lungs out. The lyrics feel lived in which can be frightening. Key lyrics:

And the sky was all violet
I wanna give the violet more violence
Hey, I’m the one with no soul
One above and one below

Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to
Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to
Go on, take everything, take everything, I want you to

Miss World – Acoustic introduction with Courtney singing straight from the heart. The ache in her voice carries the weight of sadness without becoming bogged down in it. The music speeds up to a punk sound while Courtney chants “I made my bed I lie / die in it” before slowing down once again. Key lyrics:

I’m miss world, somebody kill me
Kill me pills, no one cares my friends
My friend

I’m miss world, watch me break and watch me burn
No one is listening my friends, yeah

Plump – Very “Seattle grunge” sounding, aggressive guitars but a notch slower than punk. Eric Erlandson’s guitar work is simply perfect on this track, slithering its way around Courtney’s vocals. Ah, yes. Courtney’s vocals – simply magical here. At times haunting, at times sounding like a woman who had lived a very rough life, she perfectly allows her muse to service the music. Key lyrics:

Do you fake it for me like I…
Do you fake it for me like I…

My baby’s in her arms
Crawling up her legs
Like a liar at a witch trial
You look good for your age

Asking For It – Acoustic introduction, the song was inspired by a concert where Courtney was crowdsurfing and the audience ripped away her clothing until she was left naked. The song moves from the acoustic part into an explosive chorus featuring melodic screaming and a full band assault. Features backing vocals by bassist Kristen Pfaff (RIP). Key lyrics:

If you live through this with me
I swear that I would die for you
And if you live through this with me
I swear that I would die for you

Was she asking for it?
Was she asking nice?
If she was asking for it
Did she ask you twice?

Jennifer’s Body – Angular guitars open the song, giving it a post-punk feel at first. Courtney’s vocals are dispassionate before she shifts into her perfect melodic screaming. It must be said – her voice is simply stunning throughout this record. Key lyrics:

To better you, to better me
My bitter half has bitten me
It’s better than you, it’s better than me
Sleeping with my enemy
Myself
Myself

The pieces of Jennifer’s body
Found pieces of Jennifer’s body
Found pieces of Jennifer’s body
Just relax, just relax, just go to sleep
Just relax, just relax, just go to sleep

Doll Parts – The quintessential Hole song and not coincidentally their biggest hit. The song was written about Kurt Cobain which makes its emotional impact even more devastating. There is a sadness lurking beneath Courtney’s punk rock veneer that is disarming in its honesty. Acoustic based with stunning vocals, it features lyrics that cut right to the heart. Key lyrics:

Yeah, they really want you
They really want you, they really do
Yeah, they really want you
They really want you, but I do too

I want to be the girl with the most cake
He only loves those things because he loves to see them break
I fake it so real I am beyond fake
And someday you will ache like I ache
And someday you will ache like I ache

Credit In The Straight World – A cover of the great song by Young Marble Giants. I’m going to risk my non-existent indie hipster status by saying that I prefer this version to the original. The original was an exercise in restraint – here it is transformed into a moving anthem. As on the original, the bass is featured prominently and Kristen Pfaff does a fantastic job. Courtney sings, screams, and croons her way through the song – in other words, perfectly executed. Key lyrics:

Go for credit in the straight world
Look a dealer in the eye
Go for credit in the real world
Won’t you try?

Softer, Softest – Acoustic based track, nostalgic longing oozing from Courtney’s voice. Lyrics are non linear, showing traces of a Nirvana influence in the writing process. Apparently based on Courtney Love’s childhood though the meaning of the lyrics can be hard to discern. This is all forgiven by the extremely strong chorus / melody. Key lyrics:

Burn the witch
The witch is dead
Burn the witch
Just bring me back her head

The pee girl gets the belt
Your milk makes me melt

She Walks On Me – Courtney screaming through a megaphone as the music races to a punk rock beat. Slightly slows down for Courtney to sing / speak the title and then speeds right back up. Segues into another section that has a classic rock vibe before revving up its punk rock engine once again. Thrilling, brutal, dangerous. Key lyrics:

Hold you close like we both died
My ever-present suicide
My stupid fuck, my blushing bride
Oh tear my heart out, tear my heart out

She walks over me
She walks over me

I Think That I Would Die – Familiar song structure moving quickly from an acoustic intro into a slightly harder edged chorus. The only song featuring lyrics with a co-writer (former bandmate Kat Bjelland). Music segues into a chant-like section before becoming aggressive once again. A deeper album cut, but absolutely essential. Key lyrics:

Rose white, rose red
Rose up in my head
Rose white, rose red

She lost all her innocence
Gave it to an abscess
She lost all her innocence
She said, “I am not a feminist”

It’s not yours – fuck you!

Gutless – My personal favorite of anything Courtney Love has ever laid to tape. The music starts out aggressive – guitars higher in the mix than Courtney’s voice. Everything then explodes in a perfect wall of noise during the chorus leaving the listener with a feeling of elation. The anger coming from Courtney feels real and it is simply stunning. I have very fond memories of driving around in my teens blasting this track as loud as possible, angry at life, angry at the world. Perfection in 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Key lyrics:

Step and fetch, grease my hips
I don’t even have to pause
I don’t really miss god
But I sure miss Santa Claus

Gutless…you’re gutless
Gutless…you’re gutless

Rock Star – False start introduction before the song slowly builds into a noisy assault. Courtney alternately screams and sings her way though the song. The topic? Making fun of the hipster scene in Olympia, WA back in the early 90’s. The lyrics remind me of the classic track “Part Time Punks” by Television Personalities. If a group finds solace in the supposed differences of its own members compared to others, are they really different? Courtney Love certainly doesn’t think so. This is an amazing song and a perfect way to conclude this album. Key lyrics:

When I went to school in Olympia
Everyones the same
What do you do with a revolution?
When I went to school in Olympia
And everyones the same
We look the same, we talk the same
Well

Don’t you please
Make me real
Fuck you
Make me sick
Fuck you
Make me real
Fuck you

In the years since this record Courtney Love has carved out a confusing public image. Rock star, movie star…none of it obscures the fact that she was a driving creative force in one of the greatest recordings of all time. It is impossible to listen to this record without thinking of her relationship with Kurt Cobain and all that transpired in the years leading up to its release. Lesser albums would be crushed under that weight of history, yet Live Through This thrives, excites, and never fails interest the listener almost 20 years later. Join me next week as I go back to the 60’s and talk about Forever Changes by Love.

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