Album Review: Hole - 'Nobody's Daughter' (Mercury)

There are moments of magic within the messiness, but Ms Love’s comeback reflects its tough conception

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about Courtney Love over the years, it’s that come hell or high water she always meets her own challenge to ‘live through this’. We’re all too aware of the seemingly endless tales of drug binges, celebrity tiffs and naked rampages, all of which make each attempted musical comeback a compelling event.

Opening with its title-track, ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ begins this new chapter with poise on a string-laden call to arms that brims with Love’s characteristic tenacity (“Don’t tell me I have lost/When clearly I’ve won”). It’s almost matched by the snarling garage punk of ‘Skinny Little Bitch’ and the anthemic anti-ballad ‘Honey’, with its rousing howl of a chorus (“He goes down, down to his bitter end/He knows now, now you can’t touch him”). Equally commanding, the Billy Corgan co written ‘Samantha’ summons up that famously sharp tongue to spear a rival with infectious relish.

Bridging the void between Hole’s restrained, mainstream-bothering ‘Celebrity Skin’ album and Love’s unhinged solo outing ‘America’s Sweetheart’ (let’s be clear, this bears no resemblance to any of her earlier work), ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ manages to reclaim only some of that missing composure and attention to detail. ‘Pacific Coast Highway’, for example, aims to match the breezy FM-rock of ‘Malibu’, but lacks the necessary focus, ricocheting erratically from half-melody to half-melody and long outstaying its welcome. And the less said about the schmaltzy, self-pitying ‘Letter To God’ the better – Linda Perry should really be thrown in a well to protect the ears of future generations.

Much here is crushed under the weight of overly fussy production, an inevitable result of its extended conception period. It is no coincidence that the best song here, the stripped back, poignant ‘Never Go Hungry’, is also the simplest. It’s the only track solely penned by Love. What’s frustrating is that with the steadying hand of Hole’s erstwhile Zen-like guitarist Eric Erlandson, you could imagine this record being the triumphant success she may still be capable of making.

If ‘America’s Sweetheart’ was a breakdown record, ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ is a recovery album. As that analogy would suggest, it’s not always pretty to witness. What we’re left with is certainly a decisive step back from the brink, but it’s hardly the full about-turn into glory that could have been hoped for.

Tom Edwards

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Click here to get your copy of Hole's 'Nobody's Daughter' from the Rough Trade shop
6 / 10

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