The frustrating thing with reviewing a Hole record is that Courtney Love is the first thing that comes to mind. And in fact, it might be the only thing that matters. True, Hole always gravitated around her, but now that the band is her and three scruffy twentysomething guys whose names escape me, the sense that Hole is the official trademark for “The Courtney Love Band” has gotten much stronger. Then again, reviving the Hole trademark might be C-Love trying to distance herself from the “wow, let’s not do that again” mess of her 2004 solo album.
The name “Nobody’s Daughter” is meant to give the album an unstated sense of independence and freedom not unlike “Live Through This”. The main difference this time is that Courtney has a laundry list of co-writters and producers; ND’s credits include longtime collaborators Billy Corgan and Linda Perry, but also include Peter Thorn and Hole new-guy Micko Larkin. Despite the ensemble case, Nobody’s Daughter is inevitably about Courtney, both in her own sense of self-fascination and rock ‘n roll culture. This sense of confusion might spell out the overriding hitch in the record; there’s too many empty ideas present for anyone to really capitalize on anything new for the band.
Not that there’s really that much that’s new here to begin with. From the get-go, “Nobody’s Daughter” sounds dated by at least ten years after the first listen. Sometimes that’s not so bad since songs like Corgan brainchild Samantha are hooky and lyrical enough to get by, but on other takes things are less successful. Such is the case with first single “Skinny Little Bitch”, a snarling, simple-riffed rawker that’s the sonic equivalent of a soccer mom trying on her old prom dress and hoping nothing’s changed. Unfortunately for Love, it has. The other standout, “Pacific Coast Highway”, is probably the most self-conscious song here (sample lyrics: “I’m on a Pacific Coast Highway/With your gun in my hands”, no guessing who this is about), but even that falters on being about a minute and a half too long. This is another pratfall of the album; things tend to go a little longer than they probably should. This is especially clear after “Samantha”winds down, and the album’s hairy middle section beings. Things never quite recover, and the album’s back half puts the nails in the coffin of what had previously been an ok if not good album.
The biggest change since ’94’s “Live Through This” (the sort of “here’s what we’re aiming for” ND has in mind) is Love’s voice. On the album’s few loud moments, she’s doing well for herself, but when things slow down boy does it get bad in a hurry. She’s still a cry from Bob Dylan’s death rasp, but the years are taking their toll on the woman who reportedly gargled whiskey on Hole’s debut to give her voice an edge. All together, “Nobody’s Daughter” comes off as being too tame and middling, especially for a frontwoman who always acts like so much more. Two and a half stars.
tl;dr: Nobody’s Daughter: A record only a mother could love. Too bad.