April 25, 2010

This Doesn't Make a "Hole" lot of Sense

1990's alt-rock band Hole returned last week with a new record, their first since 1998 before the group took an extended sabbatical so lead singer Courtney Love could focus on bad parenting and  serving as a punch line and tabloid fodder.   Hole, in the 1990's, were an impressive alternative rock band with Love's over sized personality and raw emotion driving the engine and raw venom dripping lyrics elevating the material.  The fact that Love always seemed to be teetering somewhere between overdose and mental breakdown gave the band that sense of danger, spontaneity and spark.  Their 1994 release 'Live Through This' is one of the better rock albums of the decade, in my opinion.   Ultimately the band - which has had enough members to put Spinal Tap to shame - split when it became increasingly obvious that Miss Love didn't quite have her shit together and perhaps her career was the least of her concerns. After years experimenting with acting - and I suspect a lot of drugs - Love issued a solo record titled 'America's Sweetheart' that might as well have been called 'Hot Mess' cause it played up the drug addled whack job persona that the tabloid media had presented of her.  The album, overall, felt disingenuous, as if she wrote music for that "character."   The album also musically seemed unsure of what it wanted to be.  In short, it was an underwhelming effort, and when she labored for years on the follow up, she really didn't seem like an artist to concern yourself with anymore.  As Axl Rose has proven, fans will only wait so long for that much ballyhooed follow up before they just don't care.  When Love finally did return to the studio and began recording her next solo project, to be titled 'Nobody's Daughter,' it barely registered a blip on my pop culture radar.  However, that would soon change when I learned, in an article in NME, that Love had announced a Hole reunion that would apparently follow her new solo record.

The blip on the radar would soon vanish when it was revealed that Love's Hole reunion would feature no other original members of the band.   (Originally NME reported that bassist Melissa Auf der Maur would return for the record, though a few days later Melissa would reveal she had not been approached about that and was surprised to hear that band was reforming.) Much like Billy Corgan's one man Smashing Pumpkins, Hole the band was being replaced by Hole the individual.  Corgan, who worked with Hole before, plays on the new record and helped write the album, of course, knows all about this.  Last year, when he was in town with Smashing Pumpkins (which at that time still featured another original member, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, who would leave the group in March of 2009) sat down for an interview with us for MTV News, and we asked him about using the Smashing Pumpkins name despite the fact he was up front about not being interested in going up on stage and churning out the old hit songs.  His answer was telling.  He said that in getting Smashing Pumpkins established as a "brand name" in popular music was like pushing a boulder up a mountain.  Why would he try to push another one up, just because he wants to make different music and go in different directions?

The answer, of course, is the fans.   The fans, that support that "brand" have a level of expectation; particularly if they are buying a ticket to your "reunion" show and you opt not to play the old favorites. "We play our favorites;" Corgan responded to that criticism.   So now Courtney Love - and a new backing band - have released a fraudulent new Hole record; which was recorded as solo project that simply (and cynically) rebranded as a Hole record. This sounds like a desperation move by the record company - or perhaps love herself - to find a way to make her new music seemingly relevant. The strange thing here is, Courtney Love is one of the rare cases in music where her name is much more established then her bands name.  Despite Hole having great success in the 1990's, Courtney Love, for reasons not really related to music and of course intimately related to all the cliches of rock and roll, is a very well known name and a solo project under her own name would garner plenty of attention without the "gimmick" of pretending it's a reunion project. Except, of course, that Courtney has already released a sub-standard solo record that felt like a mail in,  failed to dent the charts and quickly faded into obscurity.   So now, as she takes another kick at that very same can, she pretends this project is a new Hole record; Courtney returning to the scene of her greatest crimes; conjuring memories of a more focused, lucid Love; in order to create some buzz for the album and screw the fans who might be misled into thinking this is really a new record for the once-upon-a-time band Hole.

Pretty lame, Courtney.

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