The Courtney Love persona — riot girl gone wild, tabloid quarry, Ultimate Rock Widow — has long subsumed Courtney Love the artist. But even 16 years on, few have channeled rage and bottomless want as powerfully as she did on Hole’s seminal ’94 album Live Through This. On Celebrity Skin, its glossier follow-up, she retained that ineffable Courtney-ness: caustic, self-aware, filterless. By 2002, the ride was over, and the group disbanded. Until last year, when Love suddenly announced that her much-deferred solo project would be a Hole ”reunion,” albeit one with no other previous members.
Inevitably, that lead-up lays a heavy mantle of low expectations on Nobody’s Daughter. And while Love remains as ferocious as ever, the bleak, samey production here doesn’t always rise to meet her.
The onetime feminism flash point, now 45, also seems to pick targets well beneath her: ”Skinny Little Bitch” and the admittedly hooky ”Samantha” both annihilate supposed rivals with high school alpha-bitch glee. Thankfully, on the nakedly vulnerable ”Letter to God” and sprawling California comedown ”Pacific Coast Highway,” she mines something ? deeper — a girl who may still riot, but finally walks toward grown womanhood, too. C+