Hole 'Celebrity Skin' - Stephanie Heney
The new Hole album arrives after much rumours, pre-conceptions and hype. We all new it would be produced and smoother sounding after the Hollywood clean up of Ms Love herself, and it is indeed much more produced. However, the sell-out sound of the studio which led to Kurt's demise will be the making of Courtney. She is Lady Lazarus, back and stronger than ever. The album is rife with water similes; and people who have drowned, well this is Courtney bobbing to the surface. The production on this record doesn't hide her energy or anger, and she still growls her familiar growl that we heard on 'Live Through This' and 'Pretty on the Inside'. This record really does show Courtney's talent, through all the adversity and criticism she has faced. Billy Corgan helped write the album and then promptly announced to the world that he was responsible for most of it. So why is this so much better than the latest Smashing Pumkins record then? Steve Sutherland, in his review of Celebrity Skin describes the first three tracks as the best three openers on an album EVER, and he's not far wrong. The title track, as we know, is full of energy, but a euphoria not a vengeful anger as we are used to. She's proved herself, by being accepted by the film and fashion industry and now isn't 'selling cheap.' As rumoured, Celebrity Skin is very Fleetwood Mac sounding, despite this being hard to conceive. 'Boys on the Radio', 'Heaven Tonight', 'Malibu' and 'Petals' are pure melodic, guitar strumming, seventies classics. 'Use Once and Destroy' is all psychadelic Velvet Underground swirling. And it works as well. There is a Fleetwood Mac sample on Pretty on the Inside, and now we know it wasn't meant in irony. 'Hit So Hard' is a re-working of 'He Hit Me and it felt Like a Kiss' the cover we heard Hole play on Unplugged. Only Courtney could use the metaphor of domestic violence to describe a blissful crush. And we all fall in love along with her. The last track on side one, 'Dying' shows Courtney being quiet for a change, she whispers how she wants to be under the skin of the one she loves. She wants to drown, go under the quicksand. Except he has left, and we all know who she is referring to. This gives us a really touching insight to her tender feelings for Kurt, and how it was all destined for tragedy. Again on 'Northern Star' we hear of her cold and lonely grief while she waits, afraid it won't lead her anywhere. However, by the end of the song, it is 'he' who is cold and going nowhere. It is 'he' who has gone to the angels, she has lived to tell the tale. Side two and 'Awful' brings us harmonies in triplicate. This sounds like the theme to an eighties schoolgirl drama. Except she is not playing the heartbroken young girl this time, she is remembering 'it was perfect now it's so awful'. Courtney wants to save tender 16 year old girls and make them realise 'Run away it's divine.' 'Heaven Tonight' is another song for the girls, her daughter to be precise, a beautiful tune sung in a round, about galloping horses and never growing old. The Peter Pan allusions are lovely, but it is, perhaps unfortunate that she tells her daughter that she will go 'to heaven tonight'. This, along with never growing old is too close to home when we think of Courtney's other relations. 'Playing Your Song' returns to the shouting and we are woken with 'Hey You!'; another obvious allusion to her ex: 'And oh they've bought and sold it all, ... They've taken it and built a mall, and now they're playing your song.' Painful to hear, about how we were wrong, Kurt didn't sell out, he got sold out and it was the end of him. But that's not going to happen to our Courtney, if anyone sells her it'll be herself, and she'll name the price. Courtney has found her 'Reasons to be Beautiful'; she's not gonna beat herself up anymore, and she's fucked if she's going to let us do it either.