Hole - Live Through This (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Live Through This (1994)


If it was released today, Hole's Live Through This would be championed with White Lung's Deep Fantasy and Perfect Pussy's Say Yes to Love as a refreshing, blistering return to punk. White heterosexual males who are also cis—gendered and middle class and probably socially inept (like me!!!) would write Serious Thoughts about how songs like "Credit in the Straight World," "Rock Star" and the eternally violent "Violet" forcefully, successfully question what it means to be a Woman in Rock ‘n' Roll, and other people would write counter pieces about how that's regressive and reductive and sexist, about how you'd never bother discussing gender for an all—male band, about how, quite frankly, the patriarchy really should fuck off already and get it over with because there are such things as deadlines, you know.

Other people would like the loud guitars.

It's easy to assume these things about Hole because A) bands featuring women are still going through this malarkey and B) the exact same thing happened when Live Through This came out in 1994, just without White Lung, which is unfortunate for 1994, really. Twenty years later, we're still having the same arguments (except with computers and smart phones and occasionally in person even!). May rock stay forever young. While Love has aged into incoherence, Live Through This has remained relevant, ageless, eternally locked in rebellion and something approaching self—actualization.

There are a few rumors that have followed Love over the years, one being that her husband, Kurt Cobain, may or may not have ghostwritten the record for her. I don't think that's true (Some of the material was performed live as early 1991). But I also don't think it's false. As married musicians, the real story is somewhere in the middle. Cobain and Love probably discussed ideas for Live Through This (and Nirvana's In Utero), because why wouldn't they talk about music. Does it matter who wrote the songs? That depends on how much focus you invest in the "lady vs. the world" dynamic.

It's easy to put all that aside, though, to focus on the tunes. Live Through This was bombastic and direct and fiery. It took the dissonant dirges of Pretty on the Inside and worked in some honest—to—goodness pop hooks. As intense as opener "Violet" gets, there were still this big open throated chorus anchoring the whole thing. Even the ugly, yearning "Plump" boasted a melodic bridge in between its slices of thick guitar riffs. Other tracks ("Miss World," "Doll Parts") went even further in a pop rock direction, which would be further cultivated on 1998's Celebrity Skin.

Punk has always been concerned with "us vs. them," something Love wrote about constantly. Hole took on sexual predators ("Asking For It," "Jennifer's Body"), scene police ("Rock Star"), anyone trying to take them down (the very Nirvana—ish "Gutless"). Everything was about losing and/or taking power, which made opening with "Violet," with its angry yet hurting chorus of "Go on take everything" a powerful choice, even more so given that Live Through This was released one week after Cobain's suicide and about two months before the death of bassist Kristen Pfaff.

1994 is supposed to be the year punk rock finally broke out. And while we can send endless accolades to Green Day, Rancid and the Offspring, Hole needs to be included among them. Because they asked hard questions and demanded hard answers. Because they actually had something to say. Because they subverted gender roles and broke up the Boys Club. Because I like the loud guitars, dang it.