A rocker gets under Courtney's "Skin"

As a newly refined Courtney Love receives critical accolades for her portrayal of the late stripper/junkie Althea Flynt in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Hole fans may be wondering just where their favorite rocker grrrl’s gone. The erstwhile punk priestess has traded in her signature blurred and bleached look for conservative understatement, and we’ve heard barely a track from the band since ’94, when Hole’s forceful Geffen debut, Live Through This, topped nearly every major year-end music critics’ poll.

Well, break out the peroxide, because Celebrity Skin — the working title of the band’s follow-up — is currently being grafted in L.A. Love may have found some inspiration in little-known Canadian Jordon Zadorozny, the 23-year-old vocalist and guitarist for A&M recording act Blinker the Star. ”Courtney’s a fan and asked Jordon to come to L.A. and [work] with them on the record,” says Jim Phelan, the vice president of East Coast A&R for A&M. ”They’re definitely writing, and he’s doing some arranging and just offering a general musical role.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Blinker’s own major-label debut, A Bourgeois Kitten — released by A&M last fall — bears more than a passing resemblance to Nirvana’s style of artful grunge. With vocals and guitar riffs that move quickly from a whisper to a howl, Zadorozny appears to have taken pointers from Love’s late husband. (Check out the trio’s Cobain-by-numbers first single, ”My Dog,” due this month.)

For its part, Geffen Records denies any participation by Zadorozny in the upcoming project. ”There’s no collaboration, nothing like that whatsoever,” says label spokesman Jim Merlis, who does, however, admit the two are friendly. In fact, Love met Zadorozny through Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur, who was a band mate of Zadorozny’s in a Montreal group named Tinker.

But there may be more than one reason Geffen is not rushing to make the connection. ”There’s always gonna be this question mark about how much Kurt was involved [in the writing and making of Live Through This],” says a source close to Hole. ”And now that Courtney’s working with Jordon, that’s what everyone’s afraid of — especially at Geffen.” In addition, the source says Hole’s longtime guitarist Eric Erlandson isn’t happy with the Zadorozny arrangement and has threatened to quit the band — something Geffen also denies. ”Eric’s fine,” says Merlis.

A&M’s Phelan doesn’t see the collaboration as a big deal. ”I think it’s a really good opportunity for Jordon,” he says. ”He’s met a lot of people. He went to dinner with Michael Stipe and Courtney. He’s a guy from Pembroke, Ontario. It’s really cool for him.”