In the opening scene of Sid and Nancy, as Sid Vicious is led away by the cops and Nancy Spungen is carried away in a body bag, Courtney Love (as Nancy’s friend Gretchen) emerges from room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel, teetering on spiky heels and sobbing, “She was really nice… She was!” Dressed like a matronly trick, Love careens out of the frame, as a flatfoot in a trench coat says of Nancy, “She’d go to bed with anyone as long as they were in a group.” The messy scene —from Love’s empathetic plea to the guy’s callous dis — is like a Hole song waiting for three or four chords. It’s poignant, it’s absurd, and it’s about Love piping up for girls with bad reputations.
Of course, that can be dicey when you’ve got a bad reputation yourself (as a star-fucking careerist), and doubly dicey when you’ve got a bad reputation with other girls (as a two-faced plagiarist). But as Love growls on Live Through This, Hole’s second album, “I made my bed I’ll lie in it / I made my bed I’ll die in it.” She constantly plays patty-cake with the idea that she deserves everything she gets, good or bad, snagging slurs (“You look good for your age”; “She was asking for it”) and slinging them back with gleeful rage. Whether or not you think her cracks about husband Kurt Cobain’s bank machine were subversive or noxious, only sexist slutburgers and L7’s immediate family would deny that this album cranks, either as a joyously gut-churning companion to Nirvana’s In Utero or as the hookiest slambook ever released by a major label in the post-feminist, post-Nirvana, alternative circle-jerk era.
In one sense, Live Through This is the first great riot grrrl sell-out manifesto — say, if Bikini Kill was produced by power-pop slickster Richard Gottehrer. On “Violet,” Love starts out crooning to her capricious, Piscean bitter half over chiming strums, but then rips her throat open (“You should learn how to say no!”) as guitarist Eric Eriandson’s grinding power chords and drummer Patty Schemel’s arena-punk bashing slug you in the gut. “Jennifer’s Body” is even more explicit and complex, driven by major-dad riffage.
This could also be the first great new-wave revival broadside — say, if the Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat were produced by Kim Gordon and Don Fleming. It’s not hard to imagine Love dancing around in that public fountain from the “Our Lips Are Sealed” video, menstrual blood running down her leg. “I want to be the girl with the most cake… I fake it so real I am beyond fake,” she muses like a moody mall-bitch with smartass anguish to burn on “Doll Parts.” Yeah, she’s the nigga of the world you love to hate. Kicker is, she always loves to hate you back.