Album review

Courtney Love :
America's Sweetheart

Virgin Records

Courtney Love : America's SweetheartNot the tottering train wreck you might have imagined, but an airbrushed rock goddess, with angel wings curled behind her and a Stratocaster in her lap. As revisionism goes, it's not quite up there with Holocaust denial, but by employing renowned pin-up artist Olivia De Berardinis for cover duties Courtney has aligned herself with icons like Elvira and Bettie Page. So not an ill-fitting Donald Duck costume in sight then . . .
    Realistically, America's Sweetheart is Courtney Love's last chance. She may be one our greatest rock stars - frequently erratic, always captivating - but the man must see her as a bet with very long odds. Celebrity Skin, Hole's last album before disbanding, was frequently dazzling, but a haphazard follow-up campaign shot it in the foot. Love can't afford for this to happen again, and really needs to keep things on the rails . . . at least for a while.

So what of the music itself? Opener and first single Mono is an obvious attempt to replicate the vitriol of Celebrity Skin's title track, and it succeeds through the strength of its delivery alone. Not as catchy, not as obvious, but given time just as effective.
    But Julian, I'm A Little Bit Older Than You is allegedly about The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, but the subject is unimportant. The daft glee with which Courtney nods to The Ramones - "Hey gabba gabba baby, I know where you live" - and delivers inspired yet disposable couplets - "I see Paris, I see France, I can see your underpants" - is all that's needed. It's a charisma thing y'see, you've either got it or you haven't. Courtney has so much she doesn't know what to do with it.

As a whole, America's Sweetheart is far from perfect, but the weaker tracks - the slushy Bernie Taupin co-penned Uncool in particular - are easily offset by this disc's highlights such as Hold On To Me and Almost Golden.
    However, the constant is the performance. Seemingly held together by self-belief alone, Love's vocals are almost always on a musical precipice. Just when she threatens to descent into discord she manages to hold the note, and reminds you that this is what she does, and no one does it better. She is Courtney Love after all.

:: Rowan Shaeffer

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