July 11, 2010

Love.


I saw Courtney Love perform at a party last September, and since Hole became my favorite band, I’ve regretted not familiarizing myself with it before that night, which I could’ve made much more special. Still, I don’t think I could’ve gotten attached to Hole at that time the same way I am now. At some point during the second half of 8th grade, I became sadder and angrier; to this I do not credit teenagerdom, or angst or any hormonal whatever, just learning, and not the kind that I was supposed to be getting from school. This is when it became necessary for me to talk my way into the computer room during art class to listen to “Northern Star” instead of researching whatever I said I would research and to bring my cassette player to gym class so I could silently confide in Live Through This while sitting out. Now, I don’t know if it was actually necessary, but the computer room was comfort and the tape was security, and has become a fixture in a red backpack I almost always have with me outside the house. I just need to know it’s there, and that coiled up inside are my thoughts and feelings and truths, like a reel of fortune cookie slips. Hearing them can be like when you’ve been sitting in silence and then are startled at the sound of your own voice, but in this case its someone else’s voice, and they’ve articulated what you wanted to voice perfectly, at times without having to be very articulate at all. To confront this voice is to feel free, for at least 38 minutes and 23 seconds. For at least 38 minutes and 23 seconds, these thoughts and feelings and truths don’t make my mind feel like a living room littered with scabs, and I can find a comfortable place for them.

Courtney herself is a different story. While her music is something I already feel connected to, she’s more aspirational. Yes, aspirational. I count her as one of my role models. Yes, role model. Not that I plan to go her route in many areas of life, and like everything and everyone in culture, you look at your own morals and figure out what you can take from the subject. But man, would I like to have the strength to be raw and loud and careless. She has one leg up on the speaker and one hand strangling a guitar and lipstick running from her mouth, sprawled out and messy like her lyrics, and mascara smudged from a dirty and painful and possibly quite real view of things. Her voice drawls, and spits, and her lyrics crawl, sometimes to beg and sometimes out of vulnerability, and sometimes in a way that is creepier and, if it sticks to you, is like an itch. Raw and loud and careless. And angry. Thank God someone is.

Every night of the past couple months, I have fallen asleep with Live Through This in the cassette player next to my pillow. I know in a muscle memory kind of way how many grains of silence I have to get through before hearing the haunting riff that begins “Violet.” I know exactly when my chest will tighten and I’ll be reminded of the line from Almost Famous about loving a band so much it hurts; usually during the chord progression right after the intro to “Miss World,” then as layers of melancholy promise hold on to each other as Courtney sings the album’s title during “Asking For It,” and always as she barely breathes out the first line to “Doll Parts.” On worser nights where I'm not out by the end of Side A, Side B's opener is so rough it blocks out everything, and then I'll have shut down by the bridge of "Softer, Softest." Since "Rock Star," the last track on the album, is the one I hear the least, it only exudes more power when I do listen. One of these days I'll take what I know from Courtney and have the strength to really scream it when I play it on guitar, not that kind of thing where you start to scream it but then it becomes this kind of silent stage whisper, even though there's no audience, and you're really just being a coward.

This is where every person with whom I’ve argued about Courtney Love will say that the Courtney I love shut down 15 years ago, along with the end of the Live Through This tour, when she hung up the babydoll dresses and ran a brush through her hair. But the Courtney who inspires me is still strong and raw and loud and careless, voicing thoughts and feelings and truths, and pissing people off in the meantime. This all seems to be constant for her. On Friday, it was 46 years since it all began.

I’m not a music critic. I don’t know music. But I do know that Courtney Love changed my life. Hole, for sure, but mostly Courtney. Happy birthday, and thanks.