No Sell-Out

So here I am, feeling like the only guy on the planet who has heard the album and who likes it.

Dear Courtney, Eric, Melissa and Patty:

What a drag, the way some rock critics are dissing your new album. If I were you, I'd be ready to call out that moron at Details. It's hard to believe that person actually listened to the album.

And as for Entertainment Weekly's David Browne -- you know, the guy who gave your album a C+ and wrote "just as Hole sounds generic, so does Love" -- he's not worth thinking about. No one who buys CDs cares what EW thinks.

But it sure does seem that a lot of people have it in for Hole, or at least for Courtney. I mean, one major record company president told me the other day that he wasn't even going to listen to the album -- on principle. I don't want to repeat what he said, but he expressed a very strong negative opinion regarding you, Courtney.

One critic wrote that "music has never been the point when it comes to liking Hole. It's all about Love, the way she spits out a lyric, decks a foe or hoists her leg atop a monitor." Say what?

And we won't even get into the Spin betrayal.

So here I am, feeling like the only guy on the planet who has heard the album and who likes it. (Well, actually, I did play it for my son the week before last, and he immediately asked me if I'd make him a tape -- which bodes well for you, as I think that means the kids are gonna dig it major).

And on Sunday, the L. A. Times and the New York Times did check in with very positive reviews.

Thing is, you've made an absolutely brilliant album -- one of the best I've heard this year. And if you could see my office, you'd understand that I've listened to plenty of albums.

What seems to put people off (the ones that don't just write it off 'cause they hate Courtney) the first time they hear it is that it doesn't sound like Live Through This. In other words, they want another grunge album. (I guess grunge nostalgia is already upon us.) These are the same people who usually want artists/bands to stay the same, or at least to sound the same. A new look is OK, just don't mess with the music.

But I think that a band unafraid to change its sound is a very good thing.

Anyway, I think you should ignore all those puffed-up, pompous rock critics, 'cause if these songs get onto the radio and MTV, the kids are gonna flip out. You grab 'em right away with that big, stupid, great glam-rock riff that drives the title track (you know, Courtney, the one you said Eric and Billy wrote in about five minutes).

You've said that you don't know what a lot of the lyrics mean, and that they shouldn't be taken literally. But whatever your intent, I certainly read plenty of personal stuff into all of these songs. And I think a lot of your fans will too.

For instance, "Celebrity Skin" deals with your love/hate relationship with Hollywood and with all the stuff that goes along with trying to be a star.

The gorgeous pop-rock epic "Awful" is about being a kid and being punk, and then growing up and realizing you can't be punk forever. And it's also about how the music biz sucks the spirit and soul from all the young talent it attaches itself to. And, finally, it's about how despite all that, one song can change everything. And you certainly saw that, since you had a ringside seat as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" changed everything.

You've said that "Hit So Hard" is a love song about a recent boyfriend, but a line like "He's cold, give him a candy-coat" would sure seem to be about how everyone turned very human, very self-destructive Kurt into a saint.

I don't want to imply that this album is just about Kurt, 'cause of course it isn't. There's a lot of stuff that seems like it's you talking to yourself. Like in "Malibu" when you sing, "Help me please/ Burn the sorrow from your eyes/ Oh come on be alive again/ Don't lay down and die." Sure, that's probably about Kurt, but isn't it also about you telling yourself that you've got to keep going, that you can't let all the stuff you've had to deal with pull you under? Kind-of a pep talk to yourself?

"Reasons To Be Beautiful" might be the most punk song here, so maybe the people who don't like change will like it. Everyone else will appreciate the way you deliver the line, "Hey baby, take it all the way down." That alone is worth the price of admission.

It's too bad that the album didn't come out this past spring, 'cause "Malibu" should have been a summer smash. I'm tripping hard from the opening chords, which capture the feeling of taking off in a fast car, a convertible with the top down, racing up Highway 1 to Malibu.

This music is both coolly crafted and moving. Courtney, I know you keep saying that Billy Corgan didn't really do that much, but I can hear his influence in songs like "Dying," with that sparse but groovy arrangement (and the timpani, or whatever it is, on "Northern Star" sure has a Corgan stamp on it). And why not get some help from your friends? I mean, Elvis Presley didn't write any of the songs he sang.

Oh, and another thing. Some of the critics say you're not very emotional in your delivery. Wrong. I really don't know what album they listened to. I hear plenty of passion and pain, anger and joy in your voice. It's just that rather than just rant and shout, you're more subtle here. You've worked on your singing, expanded your range and it shows.

I gotta talk about one of my favorite songs on the album, "Playing Your Song." This one is all about Kurt. "And oh, they've bought and sold it all/ It's gone/ They've taken it and built a mall/ And now they're playing your song."

It's pretty obvious that that's about how the industry and all the wannabe grunge-rockers got every dime they could out of what Kurt and Nirvana created.

The album ends with "Petals," a dark rocker with the chorus, "Tear the petals off of you/ Make you tell the truth."

So by now I guess you know how much I love Celebrity Skin. And I hope the kids get to hear it, 'cause if they do, they're gonna dig it too.

Also, I'm willing to bet that, five years from now, all the lame-ass critics dissing the album will be referring to Celebrity Skin as a classic.

Peace & Noise,

Michael