By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The punk Love elegizes on Celebrity Skin demanded transparency and purity to create a community, for community begins from a shared language, and punk imagined language as a vehicle for its ardor. Often it was intolerant of ambiguities, and of the way language has of escaping utilitarian aims into a life of its own. Punk rarely had room for the indolent beauties of phrase Courtney pulls out of her witch's hat. "Here comes a kiss that I never had" ("Heaven Tonight") and "All dressed in red, always the bride/Off with her head, all dressed in white" ("Use Once & Destroy") aren't punk lyrics.
But the way punk stripped rock bare to its skeleton of gestures could be as revelatory as a sonnet. Often punk's most eloquent gestures were physical. When Courtney let herself fall into the audience at the show I caught from her 1995 tour, she was making good on the punk performer's S/M covenant with the audience: I will let you do anything to me, if only you will love me. This took courage: She was already wearing Anna Sui, and she had new tits, and the hands that rose to greet her as she fell were not all friendly. Courtney re-emerged a longish moment later missing a shoe, but she stood there onstage like a woman who could lead armies.
It is still true, as Woolf observed, that "the most transient visitor to this planet" could see from the front page of a newspaper that we live in a patriarchy, but it would be harder to tell from a spin of the radio dial. You might say she didn't reckon with America. Maybe rock gave women the "new vehicle, not necessarily in verse, for the poetry in her"; to borrow Woolf's phrase about the way women took to the English novel, it was "young enough to be warm in her hands."
As American speech is warm in Love's voice. But we Americans are not satisfied with Woolf's conviction that "Good writers, even if they show every variety of human depravity, are still good human beings." We want Courtney to keep faith with the integrity of punk, or at least not betray her own best self and the nascent community of "girls like you" whose possibility she suggested in her last album, and in her Internet postings. We want her, in short, to be better than us. But every age gets the poets it deserves.