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Randy Krbechek's Metronews
Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

July 6, 1994

Pity Courtney

HoleHole, Live Through This (Geffen 1994) -- Pity poor Geffen Records. Living in the politically correct 90s, the label has maintained an incredibly low profile since the suicide of Kurt Cobain (the troubled lead singer of its most-acclaimed group, Nirvana), and has not attempted to capitalize on his death.

Now comes Live Through This, the sadly mistitled second album from Hole, a group fronted by Cobain's widow, Courtney Love. Live Through This received tons of favorable press when it first appeared: following Cobain's death, Geffen essentially quit promoting it.

Too bad. Live Through This is a helluva rock album, with tunes that are alternately lacerated and ravished by these disoriented (and disillusioned) Generation Xers. Live Through This is the kind of album you'd expect if The Clash came to town and kicked the bejesus out of The Bangles.

The group, also consisting of Eric Erlandson on guitar, Kristen Pfaff on bass, and Patty Schemel on drums, is a springboard for Courtney's wrenching vocals and over-amped guitar work. Don't be fooled by Erlandson's claim that "it's easy when the music is more in your face and aggressive, but now we've made a pop record" -- Live Through This is proof positive that Loud Fast lives.

With songs like "Asking for It" and "I Think That I Would Die," the bleached-out, globetrotting, punk-slut Courtney makes Madonna truly look like a virgin. While I've always thought that the name of the band was one of the most offensive, misogynist monikers available, it appears to aptly suit Courtney's view of life and relationships.

In the end, Live Through This demonstrates that the band is better live than on CD. While the Atlanta-recorded cuts on Live Through This are strong, they are also constrained by the studio -- this band must be seen live to be fully appreciated. Unfortunately, the future of the group was recently thrown into doubt when bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a drug overdose.

Rumors are starting to emerge that Courtney was an integral part of Cobain's death; though his suicide note has not yet been released in full, it's beginning to look like Courtney contributed to (or hastened) Cobain's date with a shotgun. Of course, this may explain why Courtney has maintained such a low profile in recent weeks.

Nonetheless, Live Through This is testament to Courtney's bitchy, in-your-face, anti-social beliefs. If you feel like kicking some ass, pick up Life Through This -- it packs the wallop of a frightened, pissed-off mule, and you'll bear its audio tatoos as a reminder of what is and what will never be.

Tampa RedColumbia/Epic Blues-Reissues -- Columbia & Epic have recently re-issued a number of classic blues albums on their fine Roots n' Blues series. The new titles include The Complete Brownie McGhee (including 20 previously unreleased cuts), Tampa Red: The Guitar Wizard (which features 17 cuts from the pre-World War II blues artist called the "Wizard of Slide"), The Definitive Blind Willie McTell, and The Best of Alvin Bishop: Tulsa Shuffle.

However, the highlights of the re-issues are Michael Bloomfield: Essential Blues (1964 -- 1969) and Lonnie Johnson: Stompin' At the Penny. While the sets from Tampa Red and Blind Willie McTell are primarily of historic value (because they were recorded more than 50 years ago), the sets from Bloomfield and Lonnie Johnson were recorded in the 60s, and bear a more immediate relation to contemporary music.

Stompin' At the Penny was recorded at a nightclub in Toronto called the Penny Farthing, and features 65-year-old blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson in front of a Dixieland ensemble. Though the mix of these artists may sound odd, the chemistry between them was electric. Half blues, half dixieland, Stompin' At the Penny is a remarkable find.

Michael Bloomfield Similarly, the set from Michael Bloomfield also captures an era. Bloomfield, who would go on to form the San Francisco-based Butterfield Blues Band before his untimely death, was a killer rock-blues guitarist from early on. Essential Blues features some of Bloomfield's finest work, including selections by Electric Flag and previously unreleased live cuts recorded at the Fillmore West.

Despite his innocent appearance, tracks like "I Got My Mojo Working" and "Born in Chicago" prove that the baby-faced Bloomfield had the heart and soul of an old Delta bluesman. Though punk and grunge have largely abandoned rock's bluesy elements, this timeless material will remind you where it all started.

Fleetwood MacFleetwood Mac, In Chicago 1969 (Sire/Warner 1994) -- Speaking of blues re-issues, In Chicago 1969 is another page from the storied history of Fleetwood Mac. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie have long been one of the most potent bass/drum sections in rock, and have always had an amazing ability to recruit talented vocalists and guitar players. This double-disc set was recorded when the youthful band sat in with gray-beard Chicago blues players such as Buddy Guy and Willie Dixon for an impromptu jam.

The results are strong and bluesy, and give little hint of the enormous pop success that would greet the band within five years. Half the cuts are instrumental; the vocal duties are traded on the other tracks. While these slightly uneven recordings don't do justice to the talents of founding members Peter Green and Danny Kirwan (for a full blast of the early Mac, get a copy of their masterful, Then Play On), In Chicago 1969 shows that this was a special bunch way back. This set will appeal both to fans of the blues and to fans of the classic Big Mac.

BASS is a Ripoff -- BASS has recently initiated a new ticket-selling policy: under the new policy, the first people in line for tickets will, instead of getting first priority, be assigned a random priority. THIS POLICY IS ABSURD! If a person has the time and energy to stand in line for tickets, then he or she is entitled to the best seats available.

BASS is also subject to legal action resulting from its alleged efforts to boycott this summer's Pearl Jam shows due to Pearl Jam's refusal to allow BASS to charge more than $1.50 per ticket for service charges. Pearl Jam is to be applauded, both for their moxie and for their interest in keeping ticket prices reasonable. BASS is only interested in their bottom line -- don't believe any BS claims that they're trying to help you.

-- Randy Krbechek

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