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Hole Week – Day 4: Symbolism

To celebrate the release of our 103rd 33 1/3 on  Live Through This by Anwen Crawford, we bring you the fourth installment of Hole week. Here is an excerpt from the chapter “Softer, Softest.”

article-0-15AF0BF0000005DC-853_468x673SYMBOLISM

There are precious few records in the rock canon about motherhood. The very spirit of rock music—bound up as it is with a celebration of the unfettered, sexually voracious masculine ego—seems opposed to it. ‘The rebel is always running away from home,’ observe Simon Reynolds and Joy Press in The Sex Revolts. ‘He defines himself against domesticity and dreads being housebound; home is precisely where adventures don’t happen.’ Apart from anything else, the infrastructure of rock is not set up to support child rearing. Long tours, late nights, inflexible schedules, schlepping across the world in vans and aeroplanes and sleeping in an endless succession of hotel rooms—none of it is conducive to routine parenting, which only makes the visibility of a rock star mother like Courtney Love all the more rare, and provocative. At the level of tone as well as content, Live Through This is a challenge to every sanitised, sentimental notion of motherhood—are mothers supposed to sound this angry, this wounded, this volatile?

‘One of the reasons why I think that record is so important is because it’s a real rock record that’s so much about motherhood, and I just can’t think of another record that existed up to that point that was like that,’ says Hole fan Nicole Solomon. ‘Motherhood wasn’t a rock subject. Maybe how you’re sad that you’re an absentee father, or your own issues towards your parents those might be rock subjects, but motherhood isn’t a rock subject, and Courtney made motherhood the most fucking intense, crazy, rock ’n’ roll thing you could be writing about. Even though I’m not a parent now, and I certainly wasn’t back then, I was still so struck by what a necessary corrective that was in the history of rock music.’

The lyrical symbolism of Live Through This is, yes, one very much composed of milk and dolls and babies; what’s so unsettling is precisely how unsettled, how protean, this landscape is. Toys turn into weapons; milk thickens and curdles and then dries up altogether. There is no milk, Courtney howls on ‘I Think That I Would Die’, and, in delivery, it’s one of the most deeply felt lines on the record, containing all the terror and physical strangeness of new motherhood. Abrupt changes in volume (the ‘verse-chorus-verse’ effect) only underscore the metamorphosing power of the lyrics. ‘I knew that we were doing something unique from that point of view, lyrically,’ says Sean Slade. ‘I realized that no one else was doing anything remotely like this, or remotely as courageous, and I thought, “You know what, at a certain level, it doesn’t even matter what people think of it musically. Lyrically, it’s just so powerful that it has to make a mark.”’

 

2 comments

  1. Jim Peabody

    Kurt Cobain wrote that album, you’d have to be an idiot not to realize it. The same with Celebrity Skin, except Billy Corgan got credit for being in on that one. If you listen to Hole’s 1991 debut Pretty On The Inside you can hear what the band sounded like (terrible) before these two guys were involved.

    • So Jim, you think everyone involved with ushering ‘Live Through This’ into the world – the performers, the songwriters, the producers – are lying about the relevant songwriting credits?
      On what basis, that the first album was a bit sh*t?
      You heard ‘In Bleach’? It’s a bit sh*t. I wonder how much of ‘Nevermind’ Courtney wrote?
      Stop snorting those magic bullets, son – not everything’s a conspiracy theory.

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