Hole / Live Through This

Fan Post by Valerie Lopez

It is hard to listen to Hole’s album and disconnect the lead singer, Courtney Love, from the complicated history with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. That is a truism if you were a consumer of music in the 1990s. Millennials might have a different relationship to this album, but for me, the only reason I bought this album when it came out in 1994 was because Courtney and Kurt had a complex and fascinating relationship.

What a shitty way to start a blog about Live Through This by Hole, huh?  I dare you to listen to the first track, “Violet” without screaming at the top of your lungs along with the chorus. Love’s vocals along with the angry and intense guitar and drumming are anthemic, no question.  Without skipping a beat, after not having listened to this album for probably 20 years, I found myself screaming along. And that’s when you forget the complicated history of Courtney and Kurt. As you move through the next few tracks, you start to think, “huh, Hole was pretty fucking talented.” 

In fact, their first album received critical acclaim, so Hole was poised to continue growing and becoming an important player in the grunge band landscape of the early 90s. The producers of Live Through This include J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Sean Slade  and Paul Kolderie (co-producer of Radiohead’s Pablo Honey), so there is a lot of talent behind this album.

Once you get past the first track, there are shifts in pacing, and the subjects of the songs take you on a fairly emotional ride. This is a political album — you’ll hear songs about women’s rights wrapped around obsessions about beauty, motherhood, and violence against women. But there’s a tinge of playfulness, especially when you get to the closing track, “Rock Star.”

But as political as the album’s lyrics get, the one song, you know the one. The one that got the most airplay, “Doll Parts” is about what everyone wanted to know in 1994 — Courtney and Kurt.  When I originally heard the song (on the radio, when one did that sort of thing), I always thought that it perfectly captured the angst and pain of loving someone who didn’t return the feeling. Pair that with the video and you feel the agony of unrequited love. We all know the song is about Courtney’s insecurities. She doesn’t know whether Cobain likes her or not, and that’s when you return to the land of conspiracy theories — “did Cobain write this album?”, “did Cobain sing on it?” (he did actually on a few tracks), “Did Love exploit her relationship to Cobain to succeed in the grunge universe dominated by men?”, and so on. 

And this (along with my aching knees) reminds me why I wish I were a millennial listening to this album fresh, without all of the complicated backstory to muddy the waters. It is a solid album that puts a powerful female voice front and center at a time when grunge was dominated by men. Hole was important for that time. To this day, I love the raspy, gravely intensity of Love’s voice. It makes me miss the days of grunge and angry rock, when you felt like someone was listening to you, when you felt like if you screamed loud enough, something would change. Life and the passage of time make you realize that sometimes that works, but a lot of times, we are but grains of sand in an enormous universe, and we feel defeat. But we’ll all Live Through This.

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