Monday, August 27, 2007

Hole were, I swear, once a very good band

First of all, yes, we know that Hole technically formed outside of the Northwest—specifically, they formed in Los Angeles, although Courtney Love grew up in Oregon and, of course, lived in Seattle around the time that Live Through This broke big. Eh, close enough

And second of all, yes, I mean what I wrote: Hole’s early material rocks. Live Through This never appealed to me; I didn’t care for the slicked-up vocals or the rather obvious reference to Kurt Cobain’s suicide in the title (and probably elsewhere on the record) or the songs or the hype. And the few tracks I heard from Celebrity Skin sounded pretty dismal. Those records, however, represented Love at the peak of her mainstream fame: Courtney Love of Versace ads and Milos Foreman movies, Courtney Love of ACLU awards, affairs with Edward Norton, and Golden Globes.

A friend-of-lamestain knew guitarist Eric Erlandson in the mid-80s, before Hole, when he was “pretty shy, straight-laced . . fresh-faced and innocent.” The earliest shows sounded completely shambolic—an inept bassist (not on any of their records) who would periodically scream in the microphone, a third guitarist who generated massive amounts of feedback, etc. He reports that Hole attempted to channel “the NYC, lower east side, scuz rock kinda thing,” even to the point that they had hoped to recruit ex-Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore member Bob Bert for drums. Whatever ambitions the band may have had at the time, they certainly didn’t involve photos in Karl Lagerfeld clothes.

Their first single and LP (“Retard Girl” and Pretty on the Inside, respectively) capture the band midway through their trip from scuz rock to radio rock, when the songwriting had sharpened a bit and the band members had figured out how to play off each other. It still amazes me, however, that Love would later achieve such red-carpet success, considering how reckless and wrecked Pretty on the Inside sounded at the time—or even sounds now, for that matter. Some annoying LA-isms pop up here and there (for example, a phone message of Love saying, “Your reputation is shit in this town” gets repeated a couple of times), and I always skip the track in which the band bangs out the chords of “Cinnamon Girl” repeatedly, but overall, it’s a fine record.

(I confess that I didn’t own this record until recently. I picked it up from amazon.com after revisiting the Garbadge [sic] Man video on YouTube, although I certainly knew the music from way back when.)



Some things to clarify about Hole:

1) They were not riot grrls. They may, however, have been part of the “foxcore” movement. (I mention that only to make fun, once again, of Thurston Moore for coining that jackassed term. I mean, come on. “Foxcore”? Ha ha ha.) But riot grrls? No.

2) According to our friend in the know, Eric Erlandson deserves more credit than he often receives for shaping the band. Love may have provided the (anti-)style, the sneer, the self-hatred, and the songs, but Erlandson gave those songs texture and shape. It’s reported that he later even played all of the guitar tracks in the studio. So it’s a bit unfair to think of Hole as Courtney Love + a backup band (http://www.hipmagazine.com/courtneyletter.gif). Speaking of which, Jill Emery plays bass and Caroline Rue plays drums on these records.

3) “Retard Girl” is actually just so-so.

4) Hole released a single on Sub Pop, “Dicknail,” between “Retard Girl” and Pretty on the Inside. It’s pretty good, but we don’t own it.




Retard Girl
Phonebill Song
johnnies in the bathroom








Teenage Whore
Babydoll

And the .zip file is here.

--Wm

P.S. Coverage of Geezerfest will be up soon!

29 comments:

Yannick said...

Yeah pretty on the inside rocks!!!

It's the only cd from Hole I have.

Cheers

Lamestain HQ said...

It's the only one you need.

Anonymous said...

You're aware that Live Through This hit store racks just days after Kurt Cobain was found dead, right? So any references to his death were unintentional.


OR WERE THEY...

Lamestain HQ said...

Yikes--I can't believe that I forgot that. Thanks for reminding me. For some reason, I misremembered that several months or even a year had passed.

Kevjones30 said...

Did anyone notice that Courtney Love sounds like she wants to be Mark Arm on that "Garbadge Man" track? I swear it's like she ripped off the vocal parts from "Sweet Young Thing."

Constintina said...

I like the later, glossy stuff. But I also really like Christina Aguilera.

Pretty on the Inside really holds up, though. And Eric Erlandson gets far too little credit for shaping Hole's songs and sound.

christine said...

Wow, Courtney really can't be reviewed without someone saying some dude deserves the real credit.

Ekko said...

I must agree with Christine. Courtney was no Yoko. She was a punk before she met Sid, and was a talent in her own right. It killed me when Billy Corgan tried to take credit for her success. She admits that some of Live Through This was written with Kurt, but Kurt also said a few times that some of Nirvana's songs were written with Courtney. I think all of her albums have merit. Just because a punk goes pop doesn't make the pop any less valuable. I don't think folks said that kind of thing about Mick Jones when he formed BAD, or about Johnny Rotten's PIL. If they did, they were wrong, too. As punks get more skill, and a recording budget, they're able to make glossier music. (See: Green Day.) Much of PUnk was an ethos or a fashion, after all, that kids went into because they wanted to make music. More skill, more money, doesn't mean they don't still want to entertain the masses.

Lamestain HQ said...

Eh, no, I didn't say that "some dude" deserves all the real credit. Courtney Love is clearly the most important member of the band--she brought the songs, the attitude, etc. But we're not merely discussing Courtney Love, the person; we're discussing Hole, the band. Since the only constant member other than Love was Erlandson, it's pretty clear that Love recognized the value he brought to the band.

Anonymous said...

could you re-up Retard Girl please?

Dan 10Things said...

I loved early Hole stuff, but I always thought Courtney Love was lame. She pretty much ripped off Kat Bjelland from Babes in Toyland in her early years, right down to the way she wore slips as dresses. Every time I talked to Courtney when she lived in Seattle she was wasted and talked tons of shit. She seemed proud of the way she used people (bragging about breaking up the Bastards, bragging beforehand of hoping to steal Kirsten Pfaff from Joachim's next band Janitor Joe). The music somehow was beautiful to me partly because she seemed like such a mess, it had a tragic survivor appeal to it that got lost when it was more polished. There's a good bootleg 7" with four Peel Session of songs that ended up on the major label LP worth seeking out, the versions are a lot more raw and stripped down.

Dgrador said...

Ah, Kristen, we hardly knew ye...
Just found your blog.
Greets from Vancouver!

http://ocanadarm.blogspot.com

Corey said...

@ekko:

"Billy Corgan tried to take credit for her success"?

Umm, I think it was nearer to the opposite. CL claimed to have authored 'Disarm' - a song that has none of Courtney's musical signatures - right when Siamese Dream was becoming a hit. I love Courtney, but she was talking out her ass on that one.

Besides, who did Courtney go to to co-write her later albums? Billy Corgan.

They were clearly collaborators, as she was with Kurt, but neither can be credited with carrying the other...

Anonymous said...

I first saw Hole many moons ago supporting Mudhoney at the Zap Club in Brighton. This would be the summer of 1991 I think. The summer Mudhoney toured Europe post EGBDF but for some reason didn't play at the Reading Festival (the classic Dino Jr, Nirvana, Babes in Toyland, Sonic Youth year as immortalised in the 1991 The Year Punk Broke film). This was the Pretty On The Inside line up (Jill Emery etc).
They were having an off night if I recall and Courtney was embarassed by the sloppy show, berating the band, popping bits of Smiths tunes into the set and eventualy just giving up and slinking off. The fusty Brighton crowd if I remember rightly were rather bemused by the whole affair. Hole had been 'bigged up' rather a lot by local Brighton 'gonzoid grunge journo' Everett True (who was of course in attendance at said show).
Mudhoney naturally tore the place to pieces. Ah Mudhoney - let me count the ways I love thee:)
I kind of like the 1st album and the singles around it. So I agree with Mr Lamestain here:) Also when I met my wife (1993'ish) she was wearing a Hole t-shirt and I was wearing my Matt Lukin in a sombrero Mudhoney t-shirt - we were (still are I guess!) wee grunge kids.
Much respect to you all.

Fred said...

Well, now you guys know what to write about if you want more traffic...


P.S.
More TAD!

Anonymous said...

I agree. There's always the need for more Tad:) But I think more folks may have posted to this topic as like it or not Hole have travelled far and beyond the Pacific Northwest locale so more folks can 'share' their experiences.
I love this blog (is that the right term?) as I'm a fan of many of the bands written about (and always interested to read about bands I may not know that well) but a fair few didn't make it to my town to play - and wow those import 7"s and LPs were pricey back in late 80s/early 90s.
Keep on keeping on!

Jessica said...

Hole = terrifico

Anonymous said...

You guys should get The First Session or My Body, The Hand Grenade too. "Turpentine" is on there and nowhere else and is their best song. "Garbadge Man" is probably their second best. Oh yeah, and Courtney was a huge Inger Lorre ripoff. But who cares? Courtney isn't the only member of the band.

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Learn to Play Guitar Online said...

I haven't heard about the Hole, but after reading and listening to the zip file you included in your post. I do believe that Pretty on the inside really rocks. I wish I know about this when I Learn to Play Guitar. It could be an awesome piece to play.

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