“The mouth of a loose woman is a deep pit.” Courtney Love quoted this biblical verse on the back of Hole’s 1991 single “Dicknail.” Her pit is the deepest hole, fecund and ferocious, her mouth savage and snarling while she performs “Dicknail” with smudged lipstick, the dirtiest blonde hair, her guttural fury obliterating on stage. Hole’s earlier music gives no fucks or apologies, isolating itself from the ra-ra- riot grrrrrl sisterhood that characterized most music made by punk women in the early 1990s. Even Hole’s later, more structured, sound—crystalized in their iconic 1994 Live Through This—afflicts with an anger that is equal parts alienating and entrancing, altogether deafening. When I listen to Hole, I can’t, for some time, listen to anything else.
I’ve been on a Hole-binge since watching Montage of Heck. Until the documentary, I hadn’t placed Live Through This on Kurt’s timeline: it was released just four days after he was found dead. The album was unsurprisingly overshadowed by tragedy, it’s prescient lyrics mired for whatever meaning they could provide for Kurt’s suicide. Live Through This, with a sobbing prom queen, ecstatic and deranged, on the cover, was showered with critical praise. Love defamers claimed the album had been penned by Kurt. Worse, just months following Hole’s release and Kurt’s death, the band’s bassists, Kristen Pfaff, was found overdosed in a hotel bathtub. Instead of holing up like a half-alive widow, Courtney took her grief on the road, touring with Hole in the fall of 1994, her performances devastatingly remarkable. She’s described those shows as both cathartic and traumatizing, the audience “worshipping” her as a goddess, while “stoning her to death.”
Courtney lived through something of a modern day witch trial during her marriage with Kurt, and after his death. She was the manipulative fame-slut, the drug-addled bad mom, the self-destructive kinderwhore, the loose woman. She’s also astoundingly resilient, her lung’s capacity, her volume, her sheer will outliving the wake of the destruction she surrounded herself with. “Hers was a difficult beauty: it seemed more an act of will than an incontestable fact,” Anwen Crawford writes. Courtney fought. She had to. What I love most about Love—and there’s much to not like—is her hunger. She wanted—fame, beauty, attention. She got a nose job. She went on rants about loosing weight. She doesn’t play guitar on Live Through This even though she always carries one on stage. These where near-sacrilegious sins in riot-grrrrl feminism, even much more so in the punk-cred-thirsty world of indie rock. She croons: “I fake it so real/ I am beyond fake.”
Courtney’s been asked how she came up with the name Hole. There’s the obvious implication of pussy. She’s mentioned a quote from Euripedes’ Medea, when “Mediea kills the bride and her own child, she says ‘There’s a hole that pierces my soul.’” In an interview with Barbara Walters she retells something her mother said to her: “You can’t walk around with a hole in yourself.” Both Kurt and Courtney lived through abandoned childhoods, shipped between family members and foster homes, troublesome, unloved. They had matching wounds. Some holes fester, others heal. Hole’s Live Through This runs as deep as the mouth of a loose woman.