Whether you regard the current fascination with vinyl as an irritating distraction directed by record companies desperate to recoup some of their lost earnings, or as a wonderful opportunity to get hold of long out-of-print recordings, there is no question that the machine has really started to churn out catalogue releases at a frightening pace. Some reissues are well-thought-out featuring new packaging, mastering and/or bonus tracks whilst others are straight-ahead reissues bringing long-unavailable releases to new generations of fans. ‘Live through this’ is an example of the latter, perplexingly appearing some twenty-two years after its original release and unadorned by extra packaging or bonus material of any kind (an MP3 copy of the album notwithstanding).
Understandably, given the album’s brevity, the album is pressed on to a single 180gm platter and housed in a sleeve with only a poly-lined inner jacket and no insert. It’s very much bare bones, then, but Universal Music have done a grand job of producing a beautifully noise-free disc that allows the music to shine. Compared to the CD, the music here really sparkles, with the dynamic ‘Milk’ leaping from the speakers and ‘Doll parts’ sounding more menacing than ever. In short, whilst the release does not offer any exclusive extras, it does provide fans who missed out on the all-too-limited (and only available in Germany) original vinyl pressing, the chance to listen to the album with the best possible audio quality and that alone is reason to consider buying a copy.
Released in the tumultuous year of 1994, Hole’s ‘Live through this’ arguably remains the jewel in Courtney Love’s dirt-encrusted crown. Released just a week after Kurt Cobain’s death, the timing of the album was unfortunate to say the least, and yet, despite the baggage that surrounded it, the album was critically acclaimed and still remains a frequent star in album of the decade-type lists. ‘Live through this’ is not just marked by the tempestuous presence of Love, however, as it is also the sole appearance of Kristen Pfaff with the band (the bassist sadly passed away just two months after the album’s release); whilst the contribution of Eric Erlandson (the sole remaining member from the ‘Pretty on the Inside’ era) on guitars and Patty Schemel (replacing Caroline Rue) on drums can hardly be overstated.
A markedly different record to the screaming rage and unfocused punk rock of ‘Pretty on the inside’, ‘Live through this’ was dogged (and unfairly) for years by rumours that Kurt Cobain ghost-wrote the album, an accusation that rankles to this day. Quite aside from ignoring the obvious skills of the band, the rumours have been refuted by numerous members of the Nirvana circle including Everett True, a writer whose raw and honest writing style, not to mention close relationship with Kurt, would surely make him better placed than most to know the genesis of the album, and yet the rumours and bitter innuendo persist. It’s a shame because, regardless of your position on Courtney, Hole were a gifted band and their all-too-short catalogue is a highlight of nineties alternative rock.
Always a mercurial band, Hole would go on to embrace Fleetwood mac with the blistering pop-rock of the underrated ‘celebrity skin’, it is ‘Live through this’ that remains the band’s darkest, most powerful statement. Opening with ‘violet’ is a masterstroke and it’s clear form the off that Courtney was competing with Kurt on his own terms, laying down a vicious stop-start dynamic that saw the ferocious punk of ‘pretty on the inside’ refined and augmented with a mischievous pop-nous that wedged the tune in people’s brains in a way with which tracks like ‘teenage whore’ simply could not compete. From then onwards every song is a killer (even the cover of ‘credit in the straight world’, which sends the Marble Giants’ song spinning off into a punk rock graveyard) and Courtney’s lyrical themes take the listener deep into her own, unique, dark and cynical mindset. Intelligent and penetrating, songs like ‘asking for it’ are clearly the product of Courtney’s ferocious (if oft-misguided) intellect, and it is amazing the power with which they hit home. Moreover, the raw, unfiltered vocals are a refreshing alternative to the studio-processed perfection that seems to be increasingly the norm today and the album as a whole has managed to maintain its ramshackle power all the more because it sounds like you’re in the room with the band as feedback arcs across the tracks and guitars fizz and burn through the mix.
It’s hard to imagine this particular reissue enticing new fans to get hold of a copy of ‘live through this’, but if, like me, you grew up in love with this album and bitterly regretted not getting hold of a vinyl copy, this is the perfect opportunity to rectify that situation. A far more balanced and dynamic listening experience than the CD, this is a chance to relive hearing the album for the first time all over again and a most welcome one.