“Find your scream! Even if you don’t release it, find a scream. It’s so liberating. You can do anything then.” So said Courtney Love in a recent interview that she gave with Pitchfork Media. On her newest single, a double A-side, Courtney certainly finds her scream.
These songs are rife with some of her most ear-shattering and purely evil screams since the halcyon days of the 90’s. Her voice sounds raspier and more mature than it did at the height of her career, much like the late-period work of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. But those screams still cut through the air like scythes. She lets loose completely, the screams ringing in your ears long after the songs themselves end. But they are only a small part of the overwhelming energy and aggression of Courtney’s new single.
Nirvana fans have been known to rag on Courtney, viewing her as a parasite who latched herself onto her late husband Kurt Cobain’s career, sucked all the inspiration out of him (and possibly offed him herself), and attempts to stay relevant through her connection to Kurt’s legacy. It’s important to remember that Hole, the band she fronted, released one of the best records of the 90’s, 1994’s Live Through This. This critical success landed her a place in the hallowed halls of rock history. Despite this, some people disregard her musicianship and only focus on labeling her a “strategic hot mess”, to quote a certain starlet formerly known as Hannah Montana. Courtney is often pegged as someone who pretends to be sleazy and sloppy and plays up her own addiction and custody struggles in a grating and attention-seeking way. Destroyed by her sensational tabloid lifestyle and rendered virtually unrecognizable from multiple plastic surgeries, she has wandered the rock landscape for the past fifteen years, releasing two critically and commercially unsuccessful albums (one solo and one under the Hole name). In short, she gets no respect and is often the furthest thing from relevant.
But all that is about to change.
This single heralds the return of Courtney Love. Her career has been going through somewhat of a revival lately, with a new YouTube channel, a live tour, and most importantly some new music. These two new songs, her first in a decade, show that while some may call Courtney a fake, she is no stranger to the DIY authenticities of punk. After all, that’s her shuffling around in a wedding dress in the 1988 music video for The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”. These are both punk rock songs through and though. Courtney nails the distinctly punkish mixture of searing anger and irreverent humor on this single. It’s there in the title of the first song. Yes, we all know Courtney Love’s name, and she knows we know it. She also knows that, for many people, the reason they’ve heard of her is because of her marriage to Kurt. “You Know My Name” sets out to prove that she can stand on her own musical merits with or without the looming shadow of Nirvana. “I am the one, the one you blame”, Courtney barks in this song, possibly in reference to Kurt Cobain’s death. She also sings, “Reputation precedes us all”. But the song has largely triumphant lyrics that move her away from her troubled past, and the main takeaway here is that Courtney Love takes no prisoners and makes no apologies, just like her punk ancestors. The melody and guitar work are undeniably strong, and the song moves forward with a propulsive rhythm that never lets up. The adrenaline rush doesn’t stop until the song does. And those aforementioned screams are cathartic to say the least.
The other side of this single, “Wedding Day”, is similarly invigorating. The lyrics are more feminist-leaning, as Courtney wails snarky rhetoricals like, “Do you think you can understand/What it takes just to be a man?” and “Do you think this begins and ends with sex?”. Elsewhere, violent and surreal imagery abounds, such as a count-off section which contains lines about Courtney breaking her neck on her wedding day and being covered in egg. The menacing guitar riff at the heart of “Wedding Day” gives the song a suitably apocalyptic feel that will rock the worlds of even the staunchest Courtney haters.
“You Know My Name” certainly feels like the more major song on this single, and it has more than double the Spotify streams that “Wedding Day” has. But “Wedding Day” is by no means a letdown, even if it does seem like more of a B-side on what is technically a double A-side single. However, that’s the only complaint I could lodge against this blistering pair of songs. They are by no means revolutionary, but this single shows that Courtney hasn’t lost her punk edge, and probably never will. To me, these songs confirm what I knew about her all along: Courtney is a punk to the core, just like Kurt Cobain was. The devastation and humiliation that has befallen them was a result of the world’s attempts to force a pair of scraggly, free-spirited punks into the stifling media circus of celebrity life. But that’s all over now. Rock on, Courtney. It’s good to have you back.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
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