After the break-up of Hole, it was several years and a few false starts (including the ill-fated Bastard project) before Courtney Love released her first solo album. It was supposed to be her finest moment but unfortunately, it could well prove to be her swan song. It received mixed reviews and didn't sell well as her music began to take a secondary place to the dramas in her personal life. Of course, Courtney has always been a larger-than-life figure but now, it seemed she was reduced to a tabloid freakshow on a par with the Michael Jacksons of the world. I'm not denying she is probably a difficult woman who has made mistakes but just compare the media coverage of Pete Doherty (a man who arguably had similar problems of drug abuse, erratic behaviour and difficult relationships) to that of Courtney's. It's ironic that she's been villified and written off for the very things that the music journalists have applauded in male stars like Pete Doherty.
But leaving aside all the issues of her personality and behaviour, I have to admit I love this album. It's my favourite one of her albums and at the moment, it's one of my favourite albums of all time, however perverse that may sound. I love the songs on it --- catchy rock numbers with an edge. She has managed to combine the polished sophistication of Celebrity Skin with the emotional rawness of earlier albums like Pretty On the Inside helped by co-writers like Linda Perry and Patty Schemel. Although she didn't have a permanent band backing her on all the songs, I didn't feel like there was a lack of cohesion in the overall sound. Having said that, this album does tail off towards the second half (rather like Celebrity Skin) but earlier songs like Almost Golden and Mono more than make up for that.
Courtney can still come up with some great lyrics and when the music works, it's nothing short of stunning. The artwork (by Olivia) is also beautiful --- although my one complaint is the text in the CD booklet is practically impossible to read. The US and European versions of the CD both have slightly different lyrics on some songs. (I think the one released in the USA is the "clean" one). And then the Japanese version has completely different artwork and an extra track, Fly --- personally, I thought it was average and could have been replaced by something better.
Courtney has been compared to Marianne Faithfull. At one time, her drug addiction saw her reach the depths and even though she'd been written off by the industry she released Broken English, now hailed as a classic. I really hope, that in time, America's Sweetheart will be rediscovered as a classic because it doesn't deserve to be forgotten.
Originally published in December 2004.