Live Through This (DGC)
This album is my jam of all jams. No team of scientists working around the clock in a laboratory could’ve constructed something that was more perfect for me at 15. I was so crippled with shyness in high school that I’d let people mispronounce my name for years because I was physically incapable of speaking at an audible volume. Then I discovered riot grrrl and Hole. Courtney Love was the loudest freaking woman I’d ever seen, and her scream was the most powerful and inspiring sound that my delicate baby ears had ever heard. Lilith Fair was a great thing, but I needed aggressive, punk ferocity. I was an angsty teenage girl, hating herself but not knowing why, seeking expression for the lady rage bubbling up within me. This album is where I found it. It’s a masterpiece in lady rage.
My first and only drum lesson was when I asked my cousin (a drum major in her high school marching band) to teach me how to play “Doll Parts.” But I didn’t have a drum set, so I couldn’t be Patty Schemel just yet, so I then learned every song on the album on guitar. My ever-supportive mom sewed me an exact replica of the seafoam green babydoll dress Courtney Love wore when Hole performed on Saturday Night Live. I’d put on that SNL dress, construct a makeshift stage monitor out of old Guitar World and Sassy magazines, throw my leg up on it like she did, and slay power chords in front of the mirror.
This is a distinctly feminist album. It sounds undoubtedly ’90s with the heavy reverb and simple chord progressions, and there’s a whole ethereal, mermaid vibe to it, but then the raging guitars and distorted screams kick in and the whole thing turns into a fireball of female fury. It’s black glitter and decapitated babydoll heads and beautiful sirens singing sweet songs to lure you close enough to devour your face and all that fun, dark, girly shit. That’s what the music sounds like to me. The album art says it all. The victorious beauty queen on the cover who has had to do some fucked up shit to get to the top, juxtaposed with an innocent, 10-year-old Courtney Love on the back, capturing the only time us girls are truly free, in pre-adolescence, before we’re seen as sexual objects, before we’re chained to our mirrors and taught to hate the way we look. That girl was me, and before I even opened the CD, I was all in.
The album’s lyrical themes are universal and timeless – brutality against women, sexual violence, body image, motherhood, self-mutilation, postpartum depression – subjects that aren’t usually topics in rock music because there’s a lack of female voices. Another reason why this album is still important today.
Bella Novela play with Bad Cop Bad Cop, Barstool Preachers and Upper Downer at 8 p.m. on Friday, October 11 at Alex’s Bar.