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Courtney Love takes a turn as America's sweetheart.

Love Scars

Courtney Love plays with fire on her fun, furious solo debut

By Sarah Quelland

COULD IT BE that Courtney Love is screwing with people or have the words to the songs on her solo debut, America's Sweetheart, really changed so dramatically in the time since the pretty pink booklet was printed and the raucous recording was finally finished? Probably the latter, but the outdated lyrics are an effective way to find out who's really paying attention to what the divine Miss World has to say.

Love removed, rewrote and rearranged huge chunks of the last half of the original version of "Sunset Strip." The song plays like an L.A. Guns tune written from Love's own jaded perspective of Tinseltown, and she yowls like an alley cat ready to fight to the death. The dangerous "All the Drugs" has a Jane's Addiction vibe and the epic intro "The devil's driving my car tonight, and he's drunk./ He's pissed; he's mad. I don't care which of you he fucks up." Meanwhile, "I'll Do Anything" comes across as a driving amalgam of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Blur's "Song 2" and Elastica's "Stutter."

Like it or not, Love is rock & roll's reigning queen, and there's not a female challenger to the throne in sight. She's been thrashed, and she's been trashed, but what rocker worth his leather pants hasn't? The widow of Kurt Cobain and mother of his sole heir has been through it all: drug addiction, overdoses, stints in rehab, multiple arrests, court appearances, custody battles--you name it. In the past 10 years, the founder of the disbanded Hole has donned numerous identities, including guitar-toting grunge diva, serious actress and Versace vixen. She stands today as a battle-weary, somewhat-goofy rock vet hellbent on fighting the war.

Opening track and first single "Mono" is a scattered idea that attacks the state of rock & roll and simultaneously pleas for one more great song. "Three chords in your pocket tonight / Are you, you the one? With the spark to bring my punk rock back?" she demands, before sneering, "I don't think so."

She patronizes the Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas on the condescending "But Julian, I'm a Little Bit Older Than You." The song offers a crash course in punk-rock history and pays homage to the Clash and the Ramones. It's a riot from start to finish, and Love lets her humor shine as she spits out lines like "I know you're dangerous, what a punk! / You would never sell out / It's just like I did Playboy / That was art! / It didn't count!"

The upbeat side of her personality also dominates on the Valley-punk "Zeplin Song" [sic], where she empathizes with a guitar forced to play Led Zeppelin tunes to the point of exhaustion: "I'm a guitar / A Les Paul single cutaway / Please don't play that song on me again / I'll explode/ I'll break all my strings and start playing shit like the Sex Pistols or anything."

It's easy to want to assign Love's expressions of tenderness to her late husband. "Uncool," co-written by Elton John-collaborator and lyricist Bernie Taupin, could hardly be about anyone else. There's a little of Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver" in the music as she reflects, "Your pretty face just grabbed the headlines / Leaving nothing but my name / And all my grief keeps multiplying / And I pretend to feel no pain." "Hold On to Me" is also full of ghosts and the scrappy survivor sounds utterly helpless on the grunged-out Southern-rock ballad "Never Gonna Be the Same." Love has become a living casualty of her own rock & roll fantasy. On America's Sweetheart, she peels back her celebrity skin to reveal the raw scars underneath. "Life Despite God" starts off with her screaming over church organ music about being led to rock and ruin. The self-destructive icon offers a brash, ballsy, impulsive and intimate view of her imperfect world littered with pills, porno and princes that come too late. It's crude, vulgar and noisy, and she illuminates the chaos with repeated references to matches, fire and burning. On "Mono" she plays coy when she asks, "Did you miss me?" The answer is, most definitely, yes.

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From the March 17-24, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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