Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Hole – Pacific Coast Highway

My favourite post of ours in a while? I’d say so, yeah…


Kat Stevens: Is she STILL drunk?

Anthony Easton: 4 things that are important to remember about Courtney Love:
a) She is crazy. Even if she is not an addict, it is well established that she is not quite there; angry, unstable, out of control. She has been this way for a long time, maybe since her childhood. Crazy does not mean lacking skill, and it does not mean evil.
b) Much of the discourse around her does not deal with the crazy, but deals with her as a woman. She is dismissed frequently for being a bad mother, or being a slut, or being under the spell of a svengali. No one accuses Mick Jagger of being a bad father, no one says anything at all about Gene Simmons being a slut, and there is some delusion that the Jonas Brothers have control of their careers.
c) She is often quite accurate in her descriptions of people like Corgan.
d) One of the things that Love does brilliantly, and has done from the beginning, is to write about Los Angeles — as glamorous, as broken, as a punk rock Sunset Blvd; in works as disparate as Malibu, or her cover of Gold Dust Woman, or Sunset Strip. This one lacks the hope of Malibu, about not sitting down and dying, about leaving Malibu, or the gnashing, animal desire to become sober while enmeshed on cocaine like Gold Dust Woman; she is going back from the SF of Johnny Rotten’s Haven’t You Ever Felt Cheated to the place of original sin and endless decadence. This song quotes by extension Day of the Locust, and Ellroy, The Black Sperm of the Valley’s vengeance, and the elegiac sunlight of Laurel Canyon.
Bitch still has it.

Alfred Soto: A few lines in and we’re in Belladonna land, especially when Courtney Love rasps “I’m overwhelmed and undersexed” like Stevie Nicks blaming her wild heart for something or other. This could have been a deadly tasteful affair, but Love shows Miley Cyrus how to sound as if the song needed her instead of the other way around. Maybe it’s the way her larynx discovers an extra “eh-ah” sound beneath every other vowel.

Jonathan Bradley: Oh, the girls on the radio: they crash and burn, they fold and fade so slow. “Pacific Coast Highway” is Courtney Love beautiful and dying in a California apocalypse, somewhere she’s been many times before. And why not keep returning, when the results have been so fruitful in the past? But the West Coast isn’t what it used to be and neither is Hole; “Pacific Coast Highway” has its deliciously decaying pose down pat, but its hooks aren’t as tight as those on Celebrity Skin and its emotion isn’t as excoriating as were the band’s earlier records. I can’t call new Courtney Love material unwelcome, but I do suspect it may be unrewarding.

Al Shipley: Is there a song here? All I hear is an accumulation of all her stray cat vocal mannerisms, left out in the sun to calcify and dry out for a decade or so.

John Seroff: I can’t pretend to be a long-time fan of Courtney Love (I’d prefer Johnette Napolitano ten times out of ten) so it’s entirely possible that there’s something happening on “Pacific Coast Highway” that I’m overlooking. I do know what I want to hear that I’m not: charisma, poetry, a hook, a reason to listen again and not in that order. Even at the two minute mark this feels unnecessarily bloated; at 5:00, I was checking the timer to see how much more I had to endure. Never a good sign. [3]

Alex Ostroff: Courtney’s solo take on ‘Pacific Coast Highway’ from the 2007 leak of Nobody’s Daughter is an easy 10. It starts off acoustic, layers on piano and explodes into a release straight out of Fleetwood Mac’s playbook. The full-band version buries the vocals under guitars and draws out the grit and grain in Courtney’s voice. It’s much bigger than the original, but the strength of the songwriting and the intensity of her feelings are obscured by the changes — raw and angry and declarative where it was once pained and personal. The song still rocks, and the return of Hole is more than welcome, but part of me wishes that she’d left well enough alone.

Alex Macpherson: The ragged confessionalism of Courtney Love’s Nobody’s Daughter demos was an aesthetic that she wore with a brilliance that came from the sense that it was where she had always been destined to end up: a perfect collision of her still-astonishing lyrical gifts and turbulent trainwreck of a life. The wracked, bruised “Pacific Coast Highway”, an echo of — or possibly sequel to — “Malibu”, exemplified this. The exhaustion in Love’s voice is palpable, the desperation of lyrics like “I don’t know what to do with my hands now” – but what sticks is the woman’s sheer bloody-minded bravery, that towering melody reflecting the way in which she stands tall amidst the emotional wreckage. There’s something intensely romantic about this approach, and Love plays it up for all she’s worth. The way in which she takes a fairytale opening line — “I knew a boy who came from the sea” — and immediately twists it into something personal and darker — “He was the only boy who ever knew the truth about me” — is a magnificent testament to her skill. Love’s bare-bones solo demo from last year remains the superior iteration of the song, though this reworked version with a full band emphasises its strength over its exhaustion in a rousing sort of way; but fundamentally, “Pacific Coast Highway” is too strong a song for its quality to be much affected by any changes.

Martin Skidmore: The strummed backing here puts me in mind of the Fall (which would make Kurt Brix or something…?), which is a good thing to evoke. Actually, I shouldn’t be flippant about Courtney’s famous relationship, in that this song sounds as if it is about that — so I don’t know why the band sound so laid back (think “Bill Is Dead” or “Edinburgh Man”). The plaintive sound doesn’t entirely match the lyrics, which are more desperate and aggressive, and that comes through a little in her performance. Anyway, it is still pretty compelling and interesting.

Tal Rosenberg: Song’s a bit country, but one couldn’t tell from the way Courtney sings; she’s mewling her words instead of hoarsely spewing them. She sounds pilled out of her brain, but not weary–she just sounds bored. For West Coast dreaminess, we’ll always have “Malibu.”

Edward Okulicz: Kind of half a bite of their own “Boys On The Radio” with a little bit of The Church’s “Under The Milky Way” thrown in for good measure, it’s been interesting to watch the progression of this song since it was a Fleetwood-esque Courtney solo demo. Overall the rawking-up that’s been applied is pretty agreeable, but the god-awful and tuneless outro it’s sprouted should have been left on the cutting-room floor. Nonetheless, the first three and a half minutes are a compelling narrative — Courtney is vocally shot even if the studio trickery hides it, but that just gives it a windblown, poetic charm.

Chuck Eddy: Interestingly, in one of the few times I’ve been to L.A. in my life, I once drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, which was also the name of my favorite Hole song since Live Through This. Plus, when I first heard Live Through This, I partially dismissed it as a not-as-good version of Sonic Youth, who did a different song called “Pacific Coast Highway” on Sister. Haven’t decided whose is better (just played them back-to-back — they could use Courtney’s singing and she could maybe use their guitars. They’ve got more menace, but also more schtick. Hole’s is more lush, but also more same-old, and Hole may well have a more mobile rhythm section too, but I have no idea who’s in it these days). This is good, either way: California-style jangle rock that rocks harder than most “hard rock” nowadays. Could’ve almost fit right in on the acoustic side of Guns N’ Roses’ Lies.

Matt Cibula: Ho to the hum, although I guess nostalgists and Drive-By suckers will like it fine.

Ian Mathers: Courtney Love’s singing voice is now some weird blend of Chrissie Hynde and Stevie Nicks (i.e. awesome), but that’s pretty much the only place that the last few years seem to have left a mark. If anything, “Pacific Coast Highway” is a hell of a lot more classic rock in its sound than this non-fan is used to from Hole. I feel like I’d respond to this more if I felt more strongly (for good or ill) about Love. As it is, the song is perfectly serviceable even if it seems to lean too heavily on Context a few times, but it doesn’t exactly make me eager to hear more new Hole material.

9 Responses to “Hole – Pacific Coast Highway”

  1. As I said, I’ve never really listened to Hole, but a few of you now have me mightily intrigued re: the demo version of this.

  2. This is the second consecutive Singles Jukebox song to get compared to the Church’s “Under The Milky Way” — wacky! One more, and editors can assign trend pieces.

  3. Here’s the solo Courtney demo version. Beautiful song.

    Only listened to the final Hole album once, so this isn’t set in stone or anything, but my immediate feeling is that they fucked up rather; give me the collection of demos any time.

  4. The solo is definitely much better. Still not quite for me, but much better.

  5. My feeling is much the sme as Lex’s, but it has to be underlined, while this song’s been degraded a little, it’s still OK. The big problem is.. well, Courtney, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE to “For Once In Your Life”?

  6. Anthony, I’m with you when you shake your head at the pat dismissals of Love’s talents (Cobain could have learned from LTT’s clarity), but “no one accuses Mick Jagger of being a bad father” — c’mon. That’s a generalization. No doubt he’s a cad in his private life, but Jagger’s never made public spectacle of himself like Love has; if anything, Jagger has shrewdly played the exquisite trick of being extroverted onstage the better to keep his private life a mystery.

  7. Alfred, that’s fair,

  8. And I think his kids/ex wives have accused him of being a lousy father on a few occasions.

  9. my point is this, that Love has an enourmous amount of baggage that we have to contend with before looking at the text–and the baggage often avoids us seekiung that understanding, and it includes misogyny.