Lived Through This: Hole’s “Live Through This” is Weird


There’s no reason being clever or coy about it: Hole’s “Live Through This” is — in 2014 — a weird listen. It’s not that the music has aged BADLY, exactly, but it’s just aged into something different. I’ve been trying to think of another example where a piece of pop art was changed so much given the space of time. I can think of things like OJ Simpson’s performance in “The Naked Gun” (which still somehow works because he’s being physically punished the entire time) and, say, some of Roman Polanski’s films, or maybe the final performances of Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee. History — especially the history surrounding a grisly death — make things very interesting, but what’s happened to “Live Through This” is really, just… weird.

First, there’s a heavy layer of bullshit to the whole thing. And I’m not talking like some Courtney-Killed-Kurt conspiracy nut. I don’t actually believe that. But that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t make a spectacle of herself all over the place. Courtney Love has proven herself to be nothing less than a world class loudmouth, and the production of “Live Through This” only goes to prove it. If “Nevermind” was considered too glossy by 1993 Nirvana standards, then “Live Through This” is an extra glazed jelly donut. It doesn’t sound like a Bon Jovi record, but that’s not for lack of trying. About the only thing that makes it any different in terms of Big Arena Rock is the screams of Love herself, and even those seem sort of suspect.

A quick word about that, in terms of the album’s original release. We all know it was released shortly after the death of Cobain, a circumstance that could not have been timed better or worse. I think some conspiracy theorists see some of “Live Through This'” lines like “I love you so much I hate you” (or whatever the hell it is) as a veiled confession that Love had some hand in Cobain’s death, and that seems ridiculous. But at the same time, I think a lot of people gave Love a cultural pass when the record came out back in 1994 because, look, her husband just died. Everything suddenly seemed more powerful. I’m reminded, again, of Ledger’s performance in “The Dark Knight,” particularly in the interrogation room scene. Batman is pounding Joker into the ground, and Ledger laugh-cries “You have nothing — NOTHING!” I’ve always found that moment very powerful, and I’m not naive enough to think it has nothing to do with Ledger’s death. I’m applying my feelings about the artist to his art, and I think we/they did the same to Love in 1994.

I bet the record would have been a hit regardless of Cobain’s death, but would have been smelled out for what it was: just another grunge rock record. It’s closer to STP’s “Purple” than “Nevermind,” let alone “In Utero.” Not that everything has to be Nirvana, especially that which is NOT Nirvana. But her marriage to the mastermind behind Nirvana doesn’t just invite comparisons. It practically requires it.

All of this is leading up the ultimate moment of Bull Shittery, coming at the very beginning of album closer “Olympia.” It has two false starts. I mean “false” starts, or I should say ‘false false starts,’ because those are manufactured. They come so perfectly in rhythm with the song that they fit too well. It goes:

(guitar riff) “Well I went to schoo–l”



(beat-beat-beat-beat — guitar riff)

“Well I went to school–”



(beat-beat-beat-beat — FULL SONG).

Why would you include false starts in a song? I assume it’s to humanize the band, make them fallible and prove that this is raw, man. They’re just ripping into it and sometimes mistakes happen. Only this doesn’t feel like a mistake at all. It feels completely calculated. It feels to me, with 20 years of hindsight, that this is a ploy. It feels as natural and spur of the moment as “Real Housewives.” Completely set-up and executed professionally. Which is too bad, because I kind of like that song.

Roger Ebert once wrote something I’ll misquote here, that went like “A movie is not about what it’s about, but about HOW it is about it.” He meant that the art is in the way the story is told, not just in the content. I’ve been thinking about this a lot while listening to Nirvana, and how through sheer screaming anger their music feels like something honest, that has somehow managed to last for 20 years. “Live Through This” is also about how it is about it, and that’s the problem. All those tricks worked 20 years ago, but now we can see them for what they are. These are suitable rock songs, but because of the way they were presented, they now feel hollow.


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