Released April 12th, 1994. Review originally published July 19th 2010 – a couple of slight edits have been made around dates.
There is after all one moment at which we guess the truth, or the closest approximation of it, in the all the work of Courtney Love; right in the very guts of Live Through This‘ coruscating opener Violet, the world’s most notorious she-cuckold in waiting grunts “take everything…”, barn-owl screeching a sound so visceral it irradiates the noise around it, mess and sex and torture and lust and tenderness in one hyper-extended syllable. It was her contribution to that greatest song of the decade, a half bar of her own stanza for the broken, a Sells Like Mean Spirit which was almost enough to convince the doubters. But not quite. Hell, the last twenty five years has been hard for your average stiff on the street. For Courtney Love the life-wreckage of her husband’s suicide was the just the mid-point of a maelstrom of post-modern stuff; their followed Hollywood redemption, divorced by your ex (and then EX) band members, divorced by your own kid, divorced by his ex-band members, having the dumbsense to rag on a f*ckin’ video game. And yet you have the feeling that somehow the world is still following her; who else could a micro-blogging service that lets you telegram half a billion people in a second have been invented for?
(Mister) Cobain’s lobby have long maintained that she was a soul-sucking parasite from the off, part talent vampire, part dyke-dick shark girl with a zest for f*cking everything from people to talent up to high heaven. And yet like the Zapruder film laying dusty on a shelf next to Luniz and Suede, Live Through This is clearly the evidence that even they can’t deny. Violet screams raw and misdirected, formula quiet-loud but delivered by banshees on Nembutal. Jennifer’s Body also welcomes in the sociopath; Love sings “I’m sleeping with the enemy..myself” whilst all around is mayhem but then again icy control. Everything has hidden meaning, from the addiction bed refracted celebrity of Doll Parts to the rejection of Miss World’s internalised misery, through to the mischievous rear cover photo of a young girl staring uncertainly at a photographer who’s managed to persuade her to undo a button too many on her shirt. The subject is the artist in question of course.
And yet still there was then and is now a sense that she’s faking it, the Lolita impression just that, another dupe from the mistress shill at work. Never is this felt more than on She Walks On Me, a riot-grrrrl pastiche full of misanthropy and lyrical references to suicide like a fox. These counterfeit feelings hawked like premonitions. The hitched f*ck up start of closer Rock Star just seems unnecessary; the song that follows is routine.
But then that’s the thing with our Courtney. Is she f*cking up? Or is she just a f*ck up? Was (K)Curt the best or worst thing to happen to her? We’ve never really known, because she won’t let us know. To get back to where we started though, the one thing that is verite is that Live Through This is the only record she or Hole ever made which has been about more than her, that meant something people could pretend to believe in without feeling a hand in their pants, girl or boy. How deeply involved her husband was in the songwriting process will doubtless never be clear. But his muse surely accentuated all the pin-balling atoms of light and dark creative matter in her soul, and certainly nothing in her buckshot musical career has ever been as voyeurishly compelling again.