Home / in praise of ‘Celebrity Skin’

in praise of ‘Celebrity Skin’

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I have been stewing on this piece for a few years now. I know what you think of Courtney Love, and I know what I think of Courtney Love. All that aside (and I know that is a nearly impossible request)… Hole’s Celebrity Skin is a phenomenal rock album.

I know Courtney is nuts, and every little adjective you want to attach to her. Whatever, most guys in rock are way bigger dicks than she is… and you don’t count that. Malibu Skin is just great, nearly every track. Granted, the hits were mostly written by Billy Corgan and the rest by Eric Erlandsen. I dig the lyrics, I dig the hooks, I dig the guitar work. The album is so expressive to me, and the best thing to happen to chick rock since Chrissy Hynde. Yeah, I am sure you have a thousand girl band references where you’ll surely opine something like ____ can kick Courtney’s wasted ass any day. Well, friend, you’d be wrong.

Her band is terrific. Melissa auf De Maur is a great bassist, and was the successor in the Smashing Pumpkins after D’arcy got fired for drugs. To appreciate Eric Erlandsen (I hope I spelled that right), listen to ‘Northern Star’… that one is all him.

I’ll say the next thing because I know you are afraid to. She is hot. Now, only about 1 in 10 pictures shows that… as she is mostly wasted in public when the cameras catch her. Courtney also has integrity. She stood up to her record company and put the whole Hole catalogue online to cheese them off. She also worked with Don Henley to create a musicians’ union. This to me is an idea to totally inevitable as it is ahead of it’s time. Wait, did I say she had integrity? There is this other thing – she sold her husband’s personal diaries to Time (or Newsweek, or some shit like that) so they could make a cover story. For that alone I will always hate her. The only person in history that overtly horrible and tailcoat riding is Yoko.

So, turn off your ‘Courtney killed Kurt’ radar (only temporarily… it’s quite possibly true), and don’t pretend to worry about Francis Bean either. Think of a worse parent than Elvis? Now get yourself a copy of Celebrity Skin and listen to it all the way through. Your friends won’t think its cool, by the way… so tell them its Sleater Kinney (or some other indie approved band).

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About Lono

  • I think she is beautiful, but I wouldn’t lend her my car. I borrowed the Celebrity Skin CD by Hole from my library (I had to order it into my local branch, that was wierd) to see what the fuss was about. Since this is your fan thread I won’t get into my response to it, but she is luminous. It must be a gift given her lifestyle. I envy people like that. I that think she is a good actress and a powerful presence. I copied down some of her lyrics once because they affected me. This is from memory.

    “I fake it so real I’m beyond fake
    Someday you will ache
    like I ache”

  • “D’arcy got fired for drugs…”

    Um, I think it was Jimmy Chamberlain that got fired for drugs. D’arcy just wanted to pursue an acting career (or got fed up with Billy Corgan) (though she did spend time in rehab afterwards).

  • Connie

    no, Billy Corgan has indicated recently that D’arcy got fired for drugs because she refused to go to rehab. Word has it that she’s still using.

  • Eric Olsen

    Lono, I generally agree with you and think you are brave for saying it – I would like to see her get back into acting because she has been quite good, and things that are “cute” at 25 or 30 just look pathetic and desperate at 40, but I wish her the best and like a lot of songs on this album a lot

  • I don’t know what’s so brave in saying it, Eric. I dig this album a lot — there are some true rock-pop gems mixed in — “Malibu” and “Heaven Tonight” come to mind.

    That said, the first time I ever heard The Distillers I thought, “Oh my God, this is the band Courtney Love could only dream about creating.”

    Great piece, Lono.

  • jarboy

    and things that are “cute” at 25 or 30 just look pathetic and desperate at 40

    like the stones?

  • jarboy

    oh, but maybe it goes back to being cute at 60+

  • Then I look forward to you saying that when Courtney reaches that age.

  • If Courtney can keep off the dope, she’ll figure out a way to stay in the public eye for a long time to come.

  • b

    courtney is fantastic and celebrity skin is a reocrd that should have been huge.

    let’s just hope she keeps her self out of trouble this time and gets her life together.

    we need courtney, we need women who rock!

  • Violet Veins

    Courtney Love rocks! She’s one of those amazing women like Kelly Osborne, Paris Hilton & Anna Nicole Smith who will always find ways to stay in the public eye. Who cares if her beauty comes from plastic surgery; and if her albums are written by other people; and if she makes her money from selling off every last scrap of Kurt; or if she doesn’t give a shit about how her behavior affects her daughter. You have to admire her tenacity, few strippers have been as successful as Courtney Love. So what that she can’t sing for sh!t, you can count on Courtney to take a truckload of drugs and go a punch an air hostess in the face, just cos she feels like it. She’s a really strong powerful woman who would probably say f*ck U for praising Celebrity Skin – I don’t need you f*cking a$$holes to tell me that I’m a genius – f*ck you all, shitheads!

  • jarboy

    you’ve got issues, violent, i mean violet, issues

  • i love what i’ve heard off Celebrity Skin and courtney’s solo work and i think a lot of the bad press against her basically stems from a little sexism. i mean why would it be okay for male rockstars to get trashed and act like morons in public, but if a woman does it, she’s suddenly nothing more than trash? what about rappers who are flipping the camera off or getting into jail for drug charges? what about r.kelly? somehow the press has given him a free-pass for his jailbaiting antics while they’ve crucified courtney. i mean seriously, at least courtney’s got some heavy musical guns (have you guys heard america’s sweetheart? It’s seething in its irony and i love it)…

    now those of you who think she offed kurt or held his hand in in that process — you may be right. and if you hate her for that reason, i think you may also be justified.

    but please kids, let’s not blindly jump on the anti-courtney bandwagon because it seems like the cool thing to do. she and hole have made some damn good rock music in their time it’s a shame they’re still not around.

  • N

    Yeah totally, it is sexism and Celebrity Skin is a great album, but Live Through This is an even better album in my opinion. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, there’s no question in my mind. POTI was a great noise punk album too. They’re all solid actually.

    As for the integrity issue, Courtney collaborates with a lot of the music, but she chooses her collaborations and takes it in her own direction, writes her own lyrics, plays her own guitar (unlike a lot of so called rockers out there), and leads her own band. That’s more than Janis Joplin did. So I think you’re right Courtney has a lot of integrity where it counts. She’s never backed down from insisting on playing with girls, and actually ended Hole in her pursuit of an all-girl band which she’s been talking about forever. She comes from that whole riot grrl thing like SK or Bikini Kill – she played with some of them, was one of the first pioneers of it, and even if she ultimately rejected what she saw as the indie snobbiness of it, she dragged it’s values into the mainstream. That whole, “girls can rock, girls can f*ck things up, girls can be wild and powerful and sexual and if you call us white trash, sluts, or whores, who cares I’m gonna be free anyway.” A lot of riot grrls wrote about that, but Courtney had the guts to go out and live it right in the mainstream, shove it down the MTV crowd’s throat and take all the sh*t that comes down when a girl does that. She paid her dues and took the crap and created great art and it sucks that she’s not legendary like all the great icons of rock at this point.

    What I love is she scares the living sh*t out of just about everyone, which is great to see in her. I was digging the Mono video, all those little girls busting up a rap video. How often do you see images of little girls with chainsaws, tearing down the music industry, taking over the world and starting a revolution – all in little ballerina outfits, right? She still stands for her values after all this time and that spells integrity to me.

    So respect must be given for the fact that she’s really the only one who really gets out there and f*cks things up with any kind of conviction – for real. It’s not just talk. She’s got her own thing going on, and as much as I throw some love to them, some other girl bands lack her warrior spirit, she never stops fighting and we need that. (She kicked a mime for god’s sake. Someone has to. 😉 I mean, she’s just got a lot of guts, she’ll take on anyone. Sometimes it’s ugly, but it’s a mistake to compare her with Anna Nicole Smith, there’s a whole different, intelligent, rebellion behind what she does. She wants to play with that image of being the pretty, shallow, popular, Hollywood party girl, but she knows about the fakeness of it and writes about it – and it’s not really her no matter how hard she tries. Like most outcast girls she envies the love that the conforming shallow types are rewarded with. Celebrity Skin is a whole comment on that popular girl thing which she both wants and rejects. Her take on it is interesting and caluclated, it’s not the unthinking shallow thing you think it is.

    Anyway, I just think she’s truer punk than anyone out there since Iggy – and she’s infiltrated the mainstream and just terrifies The Man with all her messy reality and contradictions, hence all the hatred and ridicule. So I dig her. I love her raw, husky voice and her lyrics, she can really play the guitar, and there’s a lot of fire in her live performances. So you’re right for defending her – people’s inherent sexism makes them want to write her off as a white trash, shallow mess, but she’s way deeper than that. More people should say it, it rocks that you did.

  • N

    Sorry that was so long, you released my inner Courtney Love, love, I couldn’t help it. 😉

  • rohin brings up excellent points — Love’s a trailblazer in that respect…

  • Michelle/Rain

    Hole is alright, but that bitch killed Kurt! God bless Frances Bean!

  • >>Courtney Love rocks! She’s one of those amazing women like Kelly Osborne, Paris Hilton & Anna Nicole Smith who will always find ways to stay in the public eye.

    Shoot me. Shoot me now.

    Michelle … puh-lease.

    I love Love’s music. Celebrity Skin has staying power.

    I’ve never seen her act.

  • I thought that Celebrity Skin was great. It was a little softer than their other albums. I would have to say my favorite album by them has to be “Live through this.” Most people I know cannot stand Hole, or Courtney Love. It’s mostly guys. I guess a guy can’t handle a chic being more hardcore and fucked up than them. Maybe she intimidates them. She is crazy, that is what makes her so appealing. I think that is what makes her so punk. She doesn’t have to try, she just is. She is herself, and she doesn’t seem to give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

  • claire breedlove

    I hate billy corgan