Here you'll find reviews of 'Celebrity Skin', that I've found in magazines etc.
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Make what you will of the four years it's taken Hole, producer Michael Beinhorn and a revolving studio cast (including Billy Corgan) to follow up 1994's Live Through This--hell, everyone else has generated a theory. Here, I'll stick to describing the music and leave the rumors to Web-crawling shut-ins.
Sure, Mom and Dan Hanson could have spawned and trained another performing paycheck in the time it's taken Hole to record this album, but you can actually hear the elapsed time packed into the production of Celebrity Skin. Meticulously orchestrated guitars, multilayered vocal harmonies, quantized drums and sheeny studio magic have replaced the reckless spontaneity that early Hole fans may still crave, but revisiting past successes and failures has never been the band's m.o. During advance press dates for the album, Courtney Love made references to classic pop bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick and Echo And The Bunnymen, and the influence of those bands is audible, albeit bent to Hole's agenda.
Of that agenda, Celebrity Skin is about surfaces--perfect major-key pop songs whose primary emphasis is melody and sentiment. "Heaven Tonight", "Awful" and the title song, for instance, hit nerve centers like a thousand AM classics. When these songs come over the airwaves, eyes will dilate, cars will accelerate, underwear will moisten and neck hairs may well erect. The arrangements cram every frequency so thoroughly the songs are practically bulletproof, and Love. and co. never get lazy in their pursuit of the big hook. On the down side, listeners may suffer ear fatigue after sitting through three or four songs featuring Beinhorn's uberproduction--"leave well enough alone" was obviously not the producer's motto.
Lyrically, Love's up for the task of making rock heroic again. She stalks familiar territory throughout, dismantling the machine that manufactures narrowly cast female personas. On "Awful," for instance, she sings, "they royalty rate all the girls like you" to someone probably not unlike Fiona Apple. But perhaps the biggest surprise is the saucer-eyed optimism she baldly displays in "Heaven Tonight" and in lines such as "If the world is so wrong/Yeah, you can break them all/With one song."
While Celebrity Skin doesn't contain the "one damn song that can make me break down and cry," as David Bowie once called for in 1975's "Young Americans", at least Hole are ambitious enough to try to deliver.
- Robert Cherry, Alternative Press, October, 1998
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MAKE NO MISTAKE, COURTNEY LOVE IS BACK
Much anticipated album explores fame, beauty and to-the-core pain
Courtney Love makes a grand entrance. "Oh make me over," she roars at the start of Hole's new album, Celebrity Skin,right behind an attention-demanding salvo of riffage from guitarist Eric Erlandson. "Im all I wanna be"/A walking study in demonology."
That she is. Celebrity Skin, after all,is eagerly anticipated, and not because it's Hole's first work since Live Through This, which was released just days after the Seattle suicide of Love's icon husband, Kurt Cobain, in April 1994.
The new album, which arrives in stores yesturday, also marks the return of Love to the rock'n'roll whirl after the widowed grunge queen made herself over into a haute-couture model and movie starlet, only to be portrayed as a vicious harpy who just might have driven Cobain to his doom in Nick Broomfield's relentlessly sleazy documentry Kurt& Courtney. So with Celebrity Skin,Hole has a tall order to fill. First thing, Love's credibility as a rocker must be restored. Second, the band needs to hit on a new direction when grunge's corpse is long cold and few of the band's early-90's alt rock peers have gone on to command a mass audience with music a sizable ambition. As Love puts it on the title track, with typically snarling, self-absorbed certainty: "There's only us left now."
But though Celebrity arrives amid plenty of questions, it doesnt take long to emphatically answer them. Exactly two minutes and 48 seconds, in fact. Thats the length of Celebrity Skin, the opening track and first single, which hole is scheduled to perform live at the MTV Video Music Awards on Thursday night.
With a songwriting assist from Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan - Love's onetime paramour and fellow egomaniac, who gets co-writing credit on five of Celebrity's strongest tunes, and with whom Love is squabbling in the media - Hole comes on from the get-go as an irrestibly juicy, take-no-prisoners power-pop band.
Hole has by no means gone in for fluff-Celebrity the song and Celebrity the album explore fame, ambition, skin-deep beauty, and to-the-core pain with a fascinatingly entangled mix of self-mythology and universial metaphor. But these days, Love seeks redemption and retribution through melody, rather than sonic mayhem.
One cue comes from Heaven tonight, an opening hearted, chiming love song that quotes the Beatles, take its title from cheap trick album, and incredulously awawkens to the possibilty "I could be happy."
Another arrives in Awful, a hummable gem that takes aim at the exploitive ugliness of the entertainment buisness. "They rob the souls of the girls like you, "Love sings over Erlanderson's guitars, which gleam with the shine of Micheal Beinhorn's ready-for-the-airwaves production. (Hole's noisy 1991 debut was called Pretty On The Inside; this one could be titled "Pretty On The Outside.")
Awful takes on the sordid subject matter: "You're ripe for the picking, "Love, 33, sings, "its so awful." But powerless is not Love's style. Rather than despair at the sorry state of things, she returns the song into a statement of faith in the power of rock'n'roll, and announces her determination to blow her detractors away with her art. "If the world is so wrong," she exults in the song's penultimate verse, "you can break the with one song."
Celebrity Skin is Hole's Los Angelas album. With its ocvios musical growth and move for the mainstream, it's an attempt to add to the legacy of mega-platinum '70's Californians such as Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles while mainstaining the raw edge of punk-era pioneers X. The album's black-and-white cover is a tribute to the cover of X's 1980 debut. Los Angeles.
The album cover shows a palm tree burining behind bassist Melissa Auf De Maur; Love, drummer Patty Schemel, who will be replaced on tour by Samantha Maloney; Eric Erlandson, Celebrity's secret star.
The album's most gorgeously tuneful song about pain and desperation is Malibu. In the album-sleeve thanks yous, Love gives a shout out to her own idea of an admirable embattled tough broad: "Miss Joan Crawford."
And in acknowledging that "I want to, I need to be under your skin" in the hypnotic Dying, Love owns up to her compulsion to burrow under the surface of the products of the entertainment capital of which she sings. Love has already been in denial mode on the inevitable question of which Celebrity lyrics pertain to her late husband.
"What I have to say about that, I say to my shrink," she told the Internet magasine Addicted to Noise.
But there are plenty Celebrity references that fans will inevitably interpret as being about Cobain.
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8 of 10
SINCE UNLEASHING HER PERSON on an unsuspecting world, Courtney Love has metamorphosed from a frowzy, angry punk to a lithe, Versace-clad glamour girl, and her records with Hole have mirrored this transformation every step of the way. The band’s debut, Pretty On The Inside, was loaded with ire; it was as unsettling to listen to as Love - a messy, overgrown babydoll with a smear of red lipstick across her mouth - was to look at. On their followup, Live Through This, Love’s rage was just as palpable but more directed, aimed at her fucked-up coming-of-age. The record made her a rock star, but it was Love’s personal life that made her a celebrity. Her drug-soaked courtship with and marriage to Kurt Cobain came to a crashing halt with his suicide, just days before the record was released. Two months later, Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose. Love’s child with Cobain was also taken away for a short time, after allegations that she used heroin during her pregnancy were made public.
In the wake of all this tragedy, though, Love proved resilient. Hole successfully headlined Lollapalooza in 1995, and Love won critical acclaim for her role as a junkie stripper (a role she’d played, to some degree, in real life) in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Slimmed-down and suddenly chic, Love signed with a modeling agency. She dispensed with her previously ironic take on glamour and, trading in her torn thrift shop dresses for designer gowns, became genuinely glamorous, another Hollywood starlet who dated rock stars and actors.
But Love is smarter than that. She’s still haunted by her inner life and the con she sees celebrity to be, and the tension between the two is ultimately what makes Hole’s third album, Celebrity Skin, so good. A virtual pop triumph, the album is a radical departure from the fury of Hole’s previous releases, recalling Eighties new wave hooks and shimmering melodicism. Though Love, now 33, carved her music career out of punk rock, this is clearly the same gal who hung around Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope as a teenager.
From the first jangly acoustic breakdown of the title track, Love adopts a more reflective, less volatile voice, both literally and lyrically, as she indicts stardom, presumably her own, with resignation rather than scathing condemnation: "Have you ever felt so used up at this/It’s all so sugarless/Hooker waitress model actress/Oh just go nameless." With the three-chord intro and bashed-out choruses redolent of Joan Jett, Love acknowledges the appeal of that life, but Melissa Auf der Maur’s growling bass line gurgles up during verses as a reminder that beneath the glitter lurks plenty of ugliness.
That Love looks back to the Eighties for inspiration on this record - the melody-driven and hand-clap-embellished "Awful", the angelic girl harmonies of "Malibu" and the syntheziser wash of "Hits So Hard" could more or less nestle comfortably into the Valley Girl soundtrack - seems to be an attempt at making sense of her own life. Love lived the counter-culture childhood most of us romanticize - permissive hippie parents, expulsion from boarding schools, and drugs, booze and sex with rock and roll types - and lived to tell that this life is not all it’s cracked up to be; on "Awful", she gives her 16-year-old self advice that no one was to give her at the time.
New wave melodies and sweetened vocals notwithstanding, Celebrity Skin has its post-grunge moments, partly due to co-conspirator Billy Corgan - his production, arrangements and riffs rear their heads periodically, from the electronica-chug of "Use Once and Destroy" to the timpani swell of "Nothern Star" to the brittle power chords of the title track. Drummer Patty Schemel is a powerhouse on the heavier tunes, giving hard hitters like Dave Grohl a run for their money. Guitarist Eric Erlandson, who co-wrote all the songs, also deserves credit for the ease with which Hole transits from tuneful pop to raging rock and back.
Celebrity Skin‘s other "post-grunge" element is Love’s late husband, whose ghorst is all over the record: death, angels, stars in the sky and crash-and-burn imagery fill her lyrics. Love blames herself for his demise on the title track ("Honeysuckle she’s full of poison/she obliterated everything she kissed") and begs for his return on the gorgeous "Malibu" ("Come on be alive again/Don’t lay down and die"). But on the chilling, acoustic-based/orchestrally-backed "Northern Star" she unhappily accepts that Cobain was beyond help ("I cried ‘cause you were doomed") in a voice that evokes the more agonizing moments of Live Through This.
It’s unfortunate that Love must do her grieving in a public forum, where she continues to be a target of accusations and attempts to discredit her as a musician, wife and mother. It’s these very asperasions, however, that make her transformation, both physical and musical, all the more poignant. Love discovered the price of stardom early on, having burned bridges with many of her friends, lovers and colleauges as she progressed from groupie to rocker to actor to full-fledged star. But she also learned that to achieve the kind of fame she wanted, she’d have to make herself over, and that’s exactly what she’s done. In her own celebrity skin, Love has demonstrated that she can play the game and win, but Celebrity Skin reveals just how high a price she’s paid.
- Guitar World, 1998
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COURTNEY LOVE SHOWS SOME SKIN
POP/ROCK: Hole,Celebrity Skin (** 1/2 out of four)
Singer Courtney Love mystified fans with a Hollywood makeover that traded smeared mascara and ripped baby-doll dresses for salon coifs & versace finery. That transition continues aurally on this accessible, restained pop follow-up to 1994's trillingly frayed Live Through This, a sneering, searing grunge masterwork that beautifully suited Love's abrasive vocals and aggressive persona. The far silkier Celebrity Skin, brightened by the writing talent of Billy Corgan, boasts strong hit-bound songs, including the gorgeous Petals, the raucous Playing Your Song and the taunting title track, in which she growls: "Don't make me over, I'm all I wanna be/ A walking study in demonology." Yet that belligerence rings hollow amid such slick and disciplined music; Skin's pop gloss smothers the band's fiery impulses, and Love's emotions seem oddly muted, especially in tunes that refelct on her last husband, Kurt Cobain.
- E.G., The Free-lance Star, Fredricksburg, VA, 1998
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