Hole's "Skinny Little Bitch": Courtney Love strikes again
"Skinny Little Bitch" might be compared, profitably, to a dirty bomb -- or an inescapablee black hole. The guitars are low-slung and gutteral, grinding and nasty like a meth head's teeth, and as the song roars to its climax, the reformed-with-almost-all-new-members Hole throttles into shuddering, violent warp speed, like a space shuttle suddenly re-entering orbit. Frontwoman Courtney Love -- dead grunge-god hubby, unfortunate cosmetic surgery addition,
intelligible tweets and Myspace posts, total psycho hose-beast, maybe you've heard of her --expresses herself in a curled-lip, smoker's cough vocal sneer, spitting out challenged-perspective invective and belittling bile befitting an inmate in a women's house of corrections or a Rock of Love contestant.
The song is a hard and unforgiving return for Hole, an alt-rock era trainwreck that's spent the past decade or so in mothballs while Love -- think of her as the drug and psychosis addled train conductor -- stumbled incoherently from debacle to debacle, from suckling a homeless man at a fast-food franchise to getting arrested for defacing public property to wrangling with the surviving members of Nirvana over how to issue unreleased songs to embarrassing herself in more ways than I have space to get into here. (If you really want to know, check her Wikipedia page.)
Along the way, she somehow found the time to record a solo album that crystalized the Ol'-Dirty-Bastard-in-1998 circus her life had become (2004's America's Sweetheart, a career high-water mark). The storied, belabored follow-up was a Courtney Love album, until it was reborn as a Hole album -- an album that's supposedly coming out in a month after at least six bogus prior release dates. "Bitch," the opening salvo, might be the most titanic, confrontational lead Love/Hole single yet, a marked contrast to the on-a-stool folk-rock Nobody's Daughter demos that've been floating around for a while. Love is deeply, viscerally angry here, lashing out at a strawwoman everytart with the sort of ire that suggests that she's got an, er, dog in this fight.
"Skinny little bitch, stand at the mirror/In your desperation, til you disappear," she snarls. A pretty-things-going-to-hell video treatment virtually writes itself here -- collapsing bedroom walls, heels on broken glass, tawdry sex in cheap motels, coke-dusted mirrors -- falling in line with some of Love's past themes, like how women are used and allow themselves to be used by men and a male-dominated cultural apparatus.
What's really interesting with "Bitch" is that I don't know who Love is supposed to be in this equation, as a narrator; from that angle, the song achieves an almost P.J.Harvey level of open-to-interpretation intensity. Is Love a disapproving observer, looking down her nose at a girl who's on the verge of tumbling into an abyss? A fading cougar feeling threatened agewise, and showing it? Is she a bullying brute about to use the song's subject as a chew toy, informing the titular tart that "You're much too young to fuck with me" and smirking "Oh baby does it hurt?/oh baby just go slower/oh baby, just go lower"? Is Love engaging in a bit of self-loathing? Is she remembering herself as a younger woman and obliquely holding a looking glass to celebutantes-behaving-badly and their training-brassired handmaidens-in-waiting, and offering them a not-so-veiled blast of caution?