Joe Heim reviews 'Nobody's Daughter' by Hole

STILL HOWLING: Courtney Love's newest is unconvincing, though.
STILL HOWLING: Courtney Love's newest is unconvincing, though. (Daniel Jackson)
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By Joe Heim
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

There's a lot to dislike about Courtney Love. And almost all of what's dislikable shows up on "Nobody's Daughter," the new album by Love's band Hole.

It's petty and pretentious. It's self-absorbed and self-pitying. It rocks in only the most generic way imaginable.

Although its failings were entirely predictable, given who Love has become, it's still a disappointment.

Many years ago, in a different century, Hole made a couple of albums that mattered. They raged and railed. They drilled deep to emotional cores. In concert, Love was fearless, a howling demonic force whose performances seemed more an exercise in intense catharsis than an effort to simply wow a crowd. In the process she was able to convince doubters that she was more than simply Kurt Cobain's widow. She rocked in her own right, and people paid attention.

What a waste, then, what has happened in the years since -- especially the past decade as Love, 45, has starred in what is essentially her own troubled reality show: a seemingly unending string of public squabbles, arrests, embarrassments, visits to rehab, court appearances, lawsuits and custody battles over her and Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean.

This new album feels like it wants to be an apology for these lost years, or at least a case for resurrection, but it is entirely unconvincing. Instead it only reinforces the image of Love as the narcissist, wasteful of her own talent, scornful of others, bitter and vindictive. She's still howling, only now it sounds so empty.

It probably doesn't help that the new lineup for Hole includes none of its previous members, most significantly guitarist Eric Erlandson, who had been with the band since its first album. But a bigger problem is the shabby songwriting.

"Through villages of ether oh my crucifixion comes/Will you sing my hallelujah/Will you tell me when it's done," Love sings on "Samantha."

On the title track we get this: "And I will dig my own graveyard/I'm Miss Begotten/I am the last one you save here/It's all gone rotten."

And then there's "Letter to God," which begins, "Dear God/I'm writing this letter to You/'Cause I don't have a clue/Can You help me?"

Love might not want to hear the answer.

On "Someone Else's Bed," she affects her best Dylan imitation for a weird entry into what evolves into another dismal shoutfest. Like most of the songs, it follows a proto-grunge formula: soft part, followed by loud part, followed by louder part. But no amount of roaring guitars or thundering drums can camouflage such ordinariness.

Of the 11 tracks here, only "Loser Dust," a full-throttle screed, and the album-closing acoustic turn, "Never Go Hungry," offer hints of the much-better album that might have been. But it's far too little to hold on to.

"Don't tell me I have lost when clearly I've won," Love growls on "Nobody's Daughter." It's the sort of deluded self-appraisal that just leaves you shaking your head.

Recommended tracks:

"Loser Dust," "Never Go Hungry"

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