Live Through This
Riot-grrrl lodestar, punk-feminist manifesto, primal scream: Hole’s 1994 breakthrough Live Through This is many things, including a retroactive snapshot of lead singer Courtney Love’s state of mind in the final months of her marriage to Kurt Cobain, who notoriously died by suicide a week before the album’s release. The legendary late Nirvana leader was said to have contributed background vocals on at least two tracks, and was often credited with ghostwriting at least some of the songs for his then-wife. Still, much of that unproven and widely debunked gossip seems to speak more to the widespread sexism that still persisted at the time—even in alternative culture—as well as a more specific ill will toward Love as an artist and divisive public figure. What’s impossible to deny is the raw power of Live’s electrifying blasts of noise and fury, beginning with the ferocious churn of “Violet,” with its excoriating chorus, “Go on, take everything/Take everything, I want you to.” (Despite many fans’ assumptions, Love hinted more than once that its unpretty inspiration came from her contentious relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, not Cobain). The 12 tracks here, knocked out over several weeks at the same Georgia studio where Siamese Dream was recorded, is littered with lyrics that seem designed to be carved into skin with a pocketknife: “Was she asking for it?/Was she asking nice?/Yeah, she was asking for it/Did she ask you twice?” (from “Asking For It”) and “I fake it so real, I am beyond fake” (“Doll Parts”). Cobain’s passing was hardly the only devastating loss to shadow the record, as bassist Kristen Pfaff would be dead of a heroin overdose within two months of Live Through This’ release. Though it was her only full album with the band, those contributions played an undeniable role in Hole’s dramatic evolution from the deliberately lo-fi scrape and fuzz of its 1991 debut, Pretty On the Inside. The result remains a career-defining near-masterpiece, and a towering document of the era—a deathless collection of monster hooks and lacerating melodies written in lightning.