Having dallied a while on the fringes of Hollywood without ever establishing herself as more than a thespian novelty and car-crash sideshow, Courtney Love has finally returned to music with Nobody's Daughter, the first Hole album in 12 years, and her first musical offering since America's Sweetheart, her self-pitying solo album from 2004.
It sounds pretty much as you'd expect, with the standard 1990s grunge-punk settings rendered in thick, furry textures by the producer Michael Beinhorn, although it's a relief to note that Love's voice has lost its former paint-stripping raucousness and taken on more of a wearied, wheedling tone. Despite featuring a completely new line-up, fans of the previous Hole records will probably enjoy it, if they can still summon up enough interest after such an hiatus.
It's been in production since Love's release from rehab in 2005, which is probably why it seems so static and backward-sounding: she's always been something of a one-trick pony musically, but this album offers a sonic confirmation that she's not moved on from old issues, either. And while it's excusable for, say, a teenage Goth to sulk constantly, it's just embarrassing for a rich 45-year-old mother to continue throwing public tantrums and still expect to be taken seriously.
But then, Courtney's career has always been one long exercise in kidulthood: she's the Edwina Monsoon of rock, her maternal issues highlighted by the recent custody battle over her daughter Frances Bean. Perhaps it's that to which the title-track here refers, with its self-obsessive vacillations. "Don't tell me I have lost when clearly I've won," she claims at one point, before finishing the song with the sulky "I will dig my own grave". Yes, and then they'll be sorry, eh?
Elsewhere, her occasional co-writer Linda Perry puts similarly self-pitying words into Love's mouth ("I've been tortured and scorned since the day I was born"); and if "Honey" isn't yet another widow-song, then it's hard to figure what she means by lines like "Your end and my beginning, oh they need no introduction". Which, 16 years on from Kurt Cobain's suicide, is like returning to a dried-up well. Meanwhile, songs such as "Loser Dust" and "Skinny Little Bitch" pursue unfathomable, uninteresting vendettas with expletive asperity, the latter managing to reinvent the riff from Kings Of Leon's "Molly's Chambers" along the way. The only time a sense of proportion – not to mention humour – enters proceedings is during "For Once in Your Life", whose pleasingly restrained, lilting waltz of piano and strings carries the observation, "I swear I'm too young to be this old". It's one of the album's few saving graces, along with "Pacific Coast Highway", whose anthemic hookiness may have something to do with Billy Corgan's involvement at the writing stage. But whether Courtney will ever artistically move beyond the increasingly tedious details of her soap-opera life remains debatable. And frankly, we all have more important things to debate.
Download this: Pacific Coast Highway; For Once in Your Life