A casual observer of pop culture could perhaps be forgiven for being unaware that longtime public mess and sometime actress, Courtney Love is actually, you know, a musician! It's a shame that her messy life distracts from the fact the Love and the band that she fronted through various incarnations and personnel changes made some pretty darn good music. By 1989, when she formed the first incarnation of Hole with guitarist Eric Erlandson, bassist Jill Emery and drummer Caroline Rue, Love was already a mainstay on the L.A. alternative music scene, having performed with Babes in Toyland and an early lineup of Faith No More. As the frontperson of Hole, she released their debut album, the Kim Gordon produced Pretty on the Inside in 1991, to critical acclaim. Hole then went on hiatus of sorts, as Love famously married Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Before going back into the studio in 1993, Love hired new bassist Kristen Pfaff and drummer Patty Schemel. The ensuing album Live Through This was receiving terrific advance word in early 1994, but, eerily, was released just days after Cobain committed suicide. Two months later, Pfaff was found dead of a heroin overdose. Despite the turmoil, the album proved to be a commercial and critical success, and Pfaff was replaced by Melissa Auf Der Maur. Another couple of years off followed, as Love pursued her acting career. The group reconvened in 1998 to record (with help from Billy Corgan) Celebrity Skin, a fine album that was marred by Love's difficulties with her record company. A prolonged legal battle and a veritable merry-go-round of members followed, as well as an abortive side project or two, before Love officially disbanded Hole in May, 2002.
Though each album was stylistically different from the last, Hole kept a markedly uniform attitude through each one-world-weariness and anger alternating with an almost childish need for love and attention. Pretty on the Inside is still one of the hardest and darkest albums of the early '90s, with pick-me-up tunes like "Teenage Whore." Live Through This is full of catchy alt-rock classics, possibly due to rumored uncredited collaborations with hubby Cobain. And Celebrity Skin is pure California-all precisely-produced, shiny metal pop (props to "consultant" Billy Corgan) with a self-aware absence of soul that's, so Hollywood!