Hole – Celebrity Skin (1998)
Separating the artist from the art.
Sometimes easier said than done but for whatever reason, I don’t typically struggle to do so with music.
The Gallagher brothers are neither gentlemen nor scholars, yet I’ve been able to enjoy Oasis for the last 20 years with little difficulty.
Peter Doherty is as self-destructive as they come, yet my Libertines T-shirt remains in the rotation.
And of course, Courtney Love.
Say what you will about Courtney (and people have said plenty) but her life choices off stage have never interfered with my enjoyment of Hole.
Celebrity Skin was a bit of a surprise for me, a very nice one at that.
I think I expected the album as a (w)hole to sound like how I remembered the title track: bitter & aggressive.
I hadn’t realized the album’s opening lyric, “Oh Make Me Over” could also describe the band’s sound transformation.
A musical shift remarkably unlike the Nirvana trajectory:
– Live Through This (1994) was scrappy. Four years later, Hole followed it up with this pristine piece of practically perfect power pop. Alliteration!
My memory is muddy (what’s this river that I’m in?) so I cannot recall the audience reaction to Celebrity Skin at the time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there had been decries of “sell out!”
Though as is often the case with the loudest voices in a crowd, such accusations would have been misguided.
I’ve never been accused of keeping up with the times but even I knew “grunge” was finished by 1998. Would a Live Through This part II have been well received?
‘Return to the roots’ records are sometimes fashionable. Was a trip back to the even less melodic Pretty on the Inside really in the cards?
Instead, I think the shift to power pop, a genre that’s always in season, was the right move, even if it was a calculated one.
Obviously I have a genre bias but I like to think I can still spot groups running on jingly/jangly autopilot from a mile away.
My jingly/jangly autopilot radar was silent here: each song on Celebrity Skin is a keeper. Especially Boys on the Radio, one of those ‘what rock have I been hiding under that I missed this?!’ songs.
Overall, listeners expecting the anger of tracks like Violet form Live Through This will be disappointed. Then again, those expecting unfiltered Pretty on the Inside rage might have been disappointed when they first heard the melodies on Live Through This!
Ahh well, you can’t please ’em all but I was certainly pleased with this record.