Friday, 9 October 2015

Oliver: Hole - Good Sister/Bad Sister (29 December 1991)

Courtney Love celebrated her 51st birthday this year.  Just take a moment to re-read that sentence and marvel at it.  This was a woman who spent the whole of the 90s seemingly on the edge of an overdose and one who, in the Noughties, continued to make headlines and teeter on the edge of crises that would have finished off someone with a weaker constitution and spirit.  She survived huge amounts of drug taking, the death of a spouse who happened to be the most famous rock musician in the world at the time, self harm, miscarriages and a romance with Steve Coogan.  Whether she's come out wiser is hard to say, but the fact that she is still with us and still possibly making music is to be celebrated.  She's also reached an age where she's entitled to write her memoirs, as apparently she is planning to do.
It always sounds a pat thing to say when talking about an artist who has put their health through the wringer over the years, but it's a crying shame that Love's behaviour and addictions have limited Hole to a mere four albums and that at the time when they really could have cleaned up both in terms of sales and sustained musical legacy, they got the muslin of Love's crazy life pulled over them and had to try and function under something which threatened to submerge the fact that she had a band worth giving a damn over.

Peel was a huge admirer of Love and Hole.  In typical style, he nailed the reason as to why they were so compelling: "They can be alarming, disconcerting, they can be embarrassing at times....but you want to hear and see every second of it."  Margrave of the Marshes contains some charming stories about Peel meeting her at Reading Festival in successive years, and her telling his children that they would be better off watching Pavement than her own band, before she toddled off and walked into a rubbish bin.  I'm ashamed to say my own knowledge of Love in the 90s went no further than "Does drugs and makes a tit of herself in public."  I liked the track Celebrity Skin when it came out in 1998, but it was on a different planet to the stuff that Peel was playing of them on this night.

Good Sister/Bad Sister is seismic.  It's a female Godzilla of a song which surprises and terrifies in equal measure.  Listening to these early Hole tracks (I'll be covering their Peel session in my first 1992 show), I am frankly staggered by how good they sound.  Love sounds like the most fearsome succubus you can imagine, her raw, shouty vocals seemingly bending the songs to her will while Eric Erlandson and co create merry hell around her.  Sonic Youth's, Kim Gordon produced this track and the album from which it came, Pretty on the Inside and the influence of Gordon's band is plastered all over the track particularly in the dissonant, almost spoken word sections from around 1:55.  These sudden shifts into sloppy metre and free form poetry led me into the classic mental wrestling match
one has when listening to Peel.  "I don't know what I think of this.  It doesn't fit straight away, but
there's the sense about it that it might do in a moment."  And for me that moment comes at 2:23 with a propulsive rift that sounds like the Giantess climbing the Beanstalk after you and roaring, "I'll be the biggest scar in your back....I'll be the biggest dick that you ever had.  You want it bad.  You want it bad". And the 15 year old me would have wanted it bad enough to put this on a mixtape. But the sexiest female dominator song on the Peel show of 29 December 1991 is the subject of the next post on this blog.

Love had been through several more lifetimes by the time she came to declare Pretty on the Inside as "unlistenable".  Several years sober by that point, it stands to reason that she may think that, but whatever sins she visited on herself at the time should not be used to make her put down such a splendid piece of rock.

Video courtesy of grungegirl1992.

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