Hole – Live Through This (1994)

Finally gathered the nerve to write about what is probably the most ironically named album in the history of rock. Dark irony indeed, when the release of it came four days after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It was an odd April, that of 1994, truly a cruel month, and the sound of this album mirrors that atmosphere very well, or rather the slice of time that led up to it. It’s an uncannily heavy album, heavy as the sky, heavy as only a heart can be.

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I bought Hole’s Live Through This in France. My mother and I were visiting some family friends, some of our dearest people in the world, and I had a mattress in their garret, right under a French window. When not roaming the small town of Saintes, visiting Roman ruins and whatnot, I would listen to this CD, completely transfixed. I had heard of Hole, I had read a lot about Nirvana and Kurt Cobain and all of that (I was about 15 at the time, it was the perfect time), and Hole had seemed, at that time, as the only missing piece of the puzzle, that band in the whole grunge mess I hadn’t listened to yet. I remember playing it for the first time – the whole house froze. My mom said “Courtney rocks!”, I nodded approvingly, eyes far away, took it out of the sound system and retreated to the garret – a space so tiny I couldn’t stand up straight in it, which was just fine by me – and proceeded to listen to the album all night.

Live through this is a furious, helpless, hollow, wonderful album, an album of cold, rusty, jagged sincerity, fierce and powerless, naked and bruised, raw, gunning emotion at you faster than the speed of sound. It’s a detailed painting of a mess so complete it’s suffocating. The reverb on Courtney Love’s voice, combined with her “close enough, fuck you” vocal style say all there needs to be said about the feeling of isolation and somehow detached rage, cold fury, happy-clappy desperation fueling these songs. I’m not going to talk about the political message of the album – I don’t know enough about that. It’s obviously a powerfully feminist album, and I completely respect that, and I believe it’s probably one of the best. But this music doesn’t stop there – like a drunken, barefoot, dirty character, it crashes and burns and smashes everything, in every room of the listener’s mind, savage and desperate, dramatic and delirious and beautiful – it’s the scream and tear of the nineties and I think it can speak to everyone just as well, female or male.

I’ve been listening to this album for ten years now, it’s almost twenty years old, and still it doesn’t feel dated in the least. I don’t know if that’s me never really growing up (I’m reminded of the joke about the boy telling his mom “When I grow up I want to be a musician” and her answer: “Well take your pick, you can’t have both”), but I think not – there’s really much depth to this record. From the lyrics to the melodic layering, the balance between grunge abrasiveness and radio-friendly rhythm and tempo, Live Through This displays remarkable and probably paradoxical control and maturity, right under all the fury. Give it a shot, it’s really quite a tremendous record. I even found the whole thing on YouTube – that’s the third video. Enjoy and see you soon!

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