Still Spinning: Hole – ‘Nobody’s Daughter’

Our brand new “Still Spinning” feature focuses on records that we consider to be iconic (whether that’s for popular, or personal reasons), and celebrates our enduring love for them. First up, Features Editor Kate Crudgington talks us through why Hole’s fourth album, Nobody’s Daughter, released in 2010, is still one of her most influential listens.

Admired by plenty, and maligned by equally as many; Hole‘s front woman Courtney Love has been a controversial figure in rock music for over two decades. Actively antagonistic towards the 90s Riot Grrrl movement (even though many consider her music & persona to be the living embodiment of it), Love has carved a career that’s so notoriously independent, I often forget there are four other talented musicians in her band.

That being said, the majority of these musicians were absent from the recording of Nobody’s Daughter, which was initially conceived as Love’s second solo record in 2005. It’s probably worth mentioning that Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins played a role in the writing of this album too, but I don’t want to get in to production credits. What I want to get in to is how Hole (and by default, Courtney Love) have created some of the most cathartic, memorable music I’ve ever heard.

There’s no denying Love has exhibited plenty of toxic behaviour in the past, but I feel her male counterparts in the industry are rarely treated with such judgement, disdain or hatred. I don’t care if her vocals aren’t pitch perfect, or if she plays chords “the lazy way” (as my first boyfriend once put it). What I care about is how her music offers an alternative to angry young women, growing up in a world that consistently tells women to minimise their anger.

Nobody’s Daughter is the first Hole album I listened to in full. I was about to turn twenty-five, and I was livid after being dumped on public transport by my first boyfriend after a 3 and a half year relationship. My cousin Rebecca – an original 90s Riot Grrrl – gave me some of her Hole CDs, and from the opening lyric of the eponymous track, I was hooked. “Made something better, kept it for himself” seethes Love, taking me right back to the rage I felt the morning after the breakup. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated, and so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate that properly to friends and family. I’d been waiting for permission to tell the truth about my post-breakup feelings, and Nobody’s Daughter granted me that permission in a heartbeat.

It’s worth noting I took the lyrics on this album very seriously/personally, which is probably why I prefer the ragers, and not the quieter tracks. The way Love snarls “Don’t tell me I have lost, when clearly I’ve won” resonated with me deeply post-breakup. I needed that level of petty competitiveness to get me through. Love could be referring to any number of things on ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ – including her own complicated relationship with Frances Bean Cobain – but to me, that track is a defiant middle finger to anyone who had a pre-conceived idea of how I would behave or react post-relationship.

Vicious second track ‘Skinny Little Bitch’ is another example of how I framed Love’s aggressive lyrics to fit my own feelings. The track rips into life in such a violent, infectious way, it’s hard not to screech the lyric “You will never see the light, I’ll just obscure it out of spite” without feeling fan-fucking-tastic. Of course, I don’t advocate women tearing down other women – especially not about their weight – but whether you frame yourself as the bitch Love’s hating on in the song, or as the bitch who’s tearing this girl a new one – it’s hard not to find respite in the spite, even if it feels misdirected when I listen to it now.

The third rager is ‘Samantha’. It comes after alt-folk tracks ‘Honey’ and ‘Pacific Coast Highway’, both of which feel like they could soundtrack a Bonnie & Clyde style getaway movie. They’re not bad tracks by any means, but they’re easy to skip over when you know ‘Samantha’ is on the horizon. “Watch her wrap her legs around this world, can’t take the gutter from the girl” seethes Love, over roaring guitars and buzzing bass lines. I love the accompanying video to this track, where she’s tearing through a desolated city, wearing a wedding dress with the word “cunt” embroidered on it.

I think the most vicious line on the record is “If you were on fire, I would just throw kerosene”. I was intoxicated by Love’s ability to speak the psychopathic unspeakable. The follow-up lyric “I love so much I hate, and I hate what you have seen in me” still strikes a chord today. The binary opposites of love and hate, and how they’re a hair’s breadth apart in feeling, is something that fuels Nobody’s Daughter, and is probably why I invested so much time listening to it in the aftermath of a breakup.

I’m out of the ragers zone now, and rolling around in ‘Someone Else’s Bed’. In the midst of hanxiety (hangover anxiety), I would listen to this and take a sick kind of joy from the lyric “I quite enjoy your suffering, Oh I want to watch the view”. Turns out, I’m pretty mean/melodramatic on a hangover, and clearly enjoy stewing in my own emotions. When I listen back now, I smirk at how much time twenty-five year old me dedicated to being angry and upset about something I couldn’t change.

I have to confess, my attention drifts towards the end of Nobody’s Daughter. ‘For Once In Your Life’, ‘Letter To God’ and ‘Loser Dust’ go over my head. Things pick up again when Love starts shouting and screaming on ‘How Dirty Girls Get Clean’. It smoulders with her trademark fury, even in the opening verses where it’s just Love and her acoustic guitar. ‘Never Go Hungry’ closes the record with a quiet determination. “I’m hungry for, life a little less cruel” muses Love, a sentiment that still fills me with hope.

Nobody’s Daughter taught me many things, but mostly it taught me that feeling irrational, or angry, or mad at a situation you can’t change is okay. It also taught me how destructive those feelings can be. It was my introduction to Hole’s discography, and led me to discover Live Through This, another Hole album that I feel forever indebted to. Say what you like about Courtney Love – and the whole Hole saga – Nobody’s Daughter is a fierce, frenzied record that deserves repeated listens (purely for the ragers).

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

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