The very moment Courtney Love drawls and crawls her way into the first track on Nobody’s Daughter, you’ll have the urge to throw a large bouquet of roses at her. It’s been a while since we heard her outside snippets in celebrity TV programmes. Not only does she sound ‘fuelled’ but, reunited with her band, Hole, we get to hear a band — with a man or a woman at the microphone — sounding thankfully a billion miles away from the fluffy toys that have nothing but emo-sensitised banalities coming out of them these days. Hole’s fourth album, coming after 12 years since their last one, Celebrity Skin, is a serious, rock’n’roll-driven skirt-bunching parade of songs.
The title track at the start lurches at snake-speed with a beautiful rhythm holding up the ringing guitars. “Down at the bottom of the ocean/ I lay down/ Nobody’s coming/ Just continue to drown,” sings Love like a mermaid out of her depth. Love traipses along the pop-punk hooklines in ‘Skinny little bitch’, a venomous ditty that sounds like a crie de coeur from a playpen for grown-ups.
Producer Linda Perry (remember the 4 Non-Blondes?) pitches in with her acoustic guitar in ‘Honey’, a song that Love was initially hesitant to record as it was a ‘widow song’ from Mrs Cobain. “I hold on to you like the death of angel/ And I hold on to you with all the life that's in me,” she sings like a storm trapped in a sunny, calm everyday day. Love’s middle-of-the-road pop sensibility shines forth in ‘Pacific Coast Highway’. But it’s in sheer 80s pop hookery in ‘Samantha’ that we hear Love sound like a smeared-lipstick, gutteral-voiced version of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. By the time she ploughs through the chorus-bridge — “People like you/fuck/people like me/fuck/people like you/fuck/people like me...”, gears have changed and we’ve entered a primal zone that doubles as a no-holds bridal shower. Hole hasn’t sounded so good since their 1994 album, Live Through This and the little guitar help from Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan comes very handy in this potent track.
In ‘Someone else’s bed’, especially in the verse part of the narrative, Love sounds like a less ironic Marianne Faithfull, with her vocal nodules echoing the thin-lipped veteran singer. ‘For once in your life’ is a drolled-up melody that fits uneasily with the rest of the set. ‘Letter to god’ plucks and sighs its way hoping to sound like a Morrissey song (it doesn’t). ‘Loser dust’ is a high-octane, low-kicking punk racecar of a song that doubles as a public health campaign against drugs (“Your youth is gone/ it’s turned to rust/ It’s all covered in loser dust”). I like the tune so much that I almost miss the message .
The good news is that Hole has returned to the blasted heath with a substantial offering and at least a couple of roaring tracks. If you’re in need of a woman’s no-frills voice to fill your room, Nobody’s Daughter is a worthy filler. And keep your ears perked up for the classic rock-meets-grunge twists along the way.
Mercory Records, Rs 395
Disco phantoms in the opera
First of all, David Byrne is on a mission: to revive the traditional album in which songs play off each other to bring us one unit. That’s a noble thought from the ex-Talking Heads headman. But then, when he hitches this mission to telling the story of Imelda Marcos (to investigate “what drives a powerful person — what makes them tick?) in the form of club opera — think rock opera of the Meatloaf kind but with dance music — you wonder whether Here Lies Love should be a performance item showcased at the Museum of Modern Art or in a double-CD sold in shops.
Byrne teams up with Fatboy Slim a.k.a. Norman Cook to cook up some phat beats for a musical in a nightclub. The Mary Poppinsesque corniness is, ahem, a turn-off. The 1:1 correlation of ‘emotions from Imelda’s life’ with clubby dance numbers are at best Disney-pastiche, at worst, a private experiment.
Only when the storyline is overwhelmed by the music — as in the scooby-groovy ‘How are you?’ (sung by Nellie McKay) and the pure Fatboy-signatured bumpety-bump of ‘Eleven days’ (sung by Cyndi Lauper) — do the songs work. In other words, when we forget the whole intention of this album. My humble advice to Byrne-saab: listen to U2’s Achtung Baby or even Green Day’s American Idiot. The songs in those albums play off each other, but much more subtly and certainly with much less pretension.
Here lies love
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim
Nonesuch Records, Rs 495