Hole's 'Nobody's Daughter': The Demos Really Were Better

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Hole

Nobody’s Daughter (Mercury)

Oh, Courtney. A few years ago word leaked out that Ms. Love, in one of her post-rehab fits of sanity, was recording a reflective solo album anchored in ’70s California rock—her Fleetwood Mac record, basically. Not long afterward, demos trickled out through the Internet that at least partly confirmed the story. By last spring, you could find an album’s worth of songs, and the surprise was how good they were: shimmering (“Pacific Coast Highway”), brooding (“For Once in Your Life”), resigned (“Car Crash”), mournful (“Sunset Marquis”), defiant (“Stand Up Motherf--ker”), it was a collection that had Love sounding battered but strong, with her intelligence and humor intact.

And then something happened, who knows what. It’s Courtney. She went through a series of collaborators, lost custody of her teenage daughter, started Twitter wars with Lily Allen and Billy Corgan (and sometimes, seemingly, with the universe as a whole), and Nobody’s Daughter by Courtney Love became Nobody’s Daughter by Hole. It’s a meaningless distinction since no other original members of the band remain (especially missed: guitarist and co-songwriter Eric Erlandson), but it feels like misguided opportunism, an attempt to recapture her mid-’90s rock-star heyday. She ditched several of the best songs from the demos and replaced them with written-by-committee numbers. There are hooks and a good supply of one-liners—she has always been an underrated lyricist—but even the older songs that remain (“Pacific Coast Highway,” “For Once in Your Life”) have been given unnecessary studio gloss and “modern rock” guitar blare. The one real highlight from the demos that remains intact is “Never Go Hungry,” an acoustic track in which the middle-aged tabloid drama queen finds her most natural role yet: Scarlett O’Hara. What will become of her from here? If only it were easier to give a damn.

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