It can often be shocking to step back from one's own life and think in terms of how much of your time has been devoted to a particular thing. For instance, I have been writing since I was seven years old. That means that at this point, I have spent over seventy-five percent of my life with pen and paper in hand. Similarly, I have been a steadfast Hole fan for sixteen years. It is a little jarring to realize that I have loved (and continue to listen to) a band that long; the fact that Courtney Love has survived long enough for me to claim active fan status of both she and her group makes it that much more amazing.
You know how you can talk all the trash you want about your own mother when you're mad at her for something, but the minute one of your friends agrees with your tirade and chimes in with, “Yeah man, your mom's a PAIN!,” you immediately go into “defend Mom's honor” mode? That's how I feel about Courtney Love. Watching her erratic behavior over the years, it has admittedly been hard at times to call myself a fan. Yet the second someone slags off on her, my fangs come out. Don't step to me with that tired Courtney shit-talking, 'cause I ain't tryin' to hear it. I'll even go full-on Chris Crocker on your ass: leave Courtney alone.
A blind man could see the Sturm und Drang of this woman's life. I'm not stupid. I know what a mess she has been. During those lost coke-addicted years in the early aughts when Love was flashing David Letterman and being hauled off to Bellevue handcuffed to a gurney, I would Google her name at least once a week—just to make sure she was still alive. I often prayed under my breath that she would, to quote Hole's 1994 classic, live through this. She did.
Nobody's Daughter, the first album Love has released with Hole (well, this version of Hole) in a dozen years, is the proof. As ever, Love has come out on the other side of Hell, guitars a-blazing. Hole has been performing the first album single, the vicious “Skinny Little Bitch,” on every late-night chat show on which Love is still allowed to appear. All eleven songs are similarly acerbic, self-aware, and chock full of the kind of melodramatic language one expects from Love's songwriting: anguish, misery, sorrow, terror, filth, destruction, surrender.
The title track takes us into a world where family is a farce and salvation is a pipe dream. “Loser Dust” and “How Dirty Girls Get Clean” most openly address Love's struggles with cocaine, a substance that nearly destroyed her life and which Love once infamously characterized in an interview with “Access Hollywood” as “really evil coffee.” “Pacific Coast Highway” opens with the same guitar notes as “Boys On The Radio” from their last studio album, 1998's Celebrity Skin. They sound so similar that, in fact, “PCH” could be seen as something of a sequel to or continuation of “BOTR.” “Someone Else's Bed,” “Letter To God,” and “Never Go Hungry Again” are visceral poignant ballads.
One possible album cover leaked during the album's rough-cut days was an altered image from a series of photos taken by French fashion designer Hedi Slimane. It's a side shot of Love smoking, tinted dark blue with the cigarette's cherry highlighted red, in an homage to the album cover from Marianne Faithfull's critically acclaimed 1979 comeback album Broken English. Although not the final cover choice, it's still both an appropriate and telling image. Like Faithfull, Love (never one for false modesty, hence her willingness to compare herself to an artist of Faithfull's caliber) had been away from music for some time before returning with this collection of world-weary songs painting a beleaguered but still fiercely resilient artist back in the game for another round.