Hole's Live Through This
Courtney Love has never been less than notorious. Her intelligence, ambition and appetite for confrontation has made her a target in a music industry still dominated by men. As Kurt Cobain's wife she was derided as an opportunistic groupie; as his widow she is pitied, and scorned, as the madwoman in rock's attic. Yet Hole's second album, Live Through This, awoke a feminist consciousness in a generation of teenage girls.
Live Through This arrived in 1994, at a tumultuous point in the history of American music. Three years earlier, Nirvana's Nevermind had broken open the punk underground, and the first issue of a zine called Riot Grrrl had been published. Hole were of this context and yet outside of it: too famous for the strict punk ethics of riot-grrrl, too explicitly feminist to be the world's biggest rock band. And then Kurt Cobain shot himself, four days before the album's scheduled release.
Live Through This is an album about girlhood and motherhood; desire and disgust; self-destruction and survival. There have been few rock albums before or since so intimately concerned with female experience. The album is a key document of third-wave feminism, but the conditions that produced its particular aesthetic have disappeared. So where did the energy of that feminism go? And why is Courtney Love's achievement as a songwriter and musician still not taken seriously, nearly twenty years on?