There are many reasons why people pay attention to Courtney Love in 2010, although none of them are musical. She may be a distinctly sub-standard singer, songwriter and musician, but as a crazy, barely literate relapsing drug addict with a massive persecution complex, Love is a transcendent genius.
Nobody’s Daughter comes in the wake of Love’s very public destruction of two of her longest-standing relationships. First up, her 17-year-old daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, returned to the custody of her paternal grandmother in late 2009 (with mum doing some less-than-maternal Twittering on the subject): an event that may have led some artists to rethink their album title in case it appeared a bit childish under the circumstances. Then Love’s old pal, Hole co-founder Eric Erlandson, discovered to his surprise that his band was apparently reuniting without him. Love duly made some pre-emptive public threats about what he could expect should he exercise what he understood to be his contractual rights as half-owner of the trademark.
Erlandson can sleep easy, though: Nobody’s Daughter isn’t an album with which anyone would want to be associated. And not, frustratingly, because it’s the product of a crazy person with an insanely colourful life. Like Guns ’n Roses’ Chinese Democracy, the question is, ‘How can someone this mad make music this mundane?’ It’s a series of irritatingly similar songs, generally mid-paced, with lyrics that run the gamut from aggressively defiant (‘Skinny Little Bitch’, ‘Loser Dust’, the title track) to sulkily defensive and self-pitying (everything else).
Love’s new band of hired guns clearly know better than to do anything that might pull focus away from their meal ticket, so there’s no wailin’ guitar solos or kick-ass drum breaks, regardless of how much the songs might benefit from input by someone with musical chops. And in these days of pernicious Autotune, Love’s decision to eschew it is possibly praiseworthy, not least since the odd flat note at the end of a line is a welcome distraction from empty lyrics such as ‘Sunday morning when the rain begins to fall/I believe I’ve seen the end of it all.’
But the lyrical highlight is obvious from the first listen. ‘I never wanted to be the person you see – can you tell me who I am?’ the 45-year-old grown adult bleats on the inadvertently hilarious ‘Letter to God’ (which somewhat ironically contains the line ‘I never wanted to be some kind of comic relief’), a song that reaches for a ‘Hey Jude’ sense of grandeur and misses by light years.
Love isn’t even bringing something original to the dull: ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ sounds like a middling late-period Lemonheads strumalong, while ‘Dirty Girls’ is fourth-rate Stories from the City-era PJ Harvey. In the end, there are plenty of overly-indulged, self-obsessed 15-year-old girls who can play half a dozen chords – and chances are that at some point they might actually grow up and create something worthwhile. Courtney Love is not just uninteresting these days: she’s entirely irrelevant.
Andrew P Street
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