Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Asking for it?
In what is still one of the best dissections of Courtney Love ever written--a coup of rhetorical economy at 200 words--Cintra Wilson reported in Salon in 1998,
She was able to sucker-punch the whole beauty myth, thrash horribly like a half-dead fish through her personal tragedy and rampant displays of public fucked-upness and still end up on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The thing everyone is talking about now is what a tragic political disaster she has become...She didn't want to be a world-beating feminist rock symbol after all. She has surgically transmogrified into anti-woman Claudia Schiffer. Instead of a loud angry girl with ideas, Courtney turned out to be a horribly vain sociopath who venally choked enough money out of the world to transform herself into a "pretty lady."
The scariest thing about Courtney 2006 is that she makes Wilson's Courtney look like a picture of sanity and healthy living. There was the 1998 round of surgeries, yes, but since then the Love-ly one appears to have embraced the frequent customer card philosophy of plastic surgery. Why settle for one new face when you can buy five and get the sixth one free?
Even so, there's something admirable and almost-still-feminist about Love's consistency; she will not shut up, or back down, or be a lady, no matter how many judges wag their fingers and Armani sheaths get ripped. Which is why I'm glad so many critics (Joshua Clover, Danny Kelly, Lisa Levy, Ariel Levy) have adopted relatively pro-Love stances, either in general or for the release of Dirty Blonde. Overrated, desecrated, still somehow illuminated, Love clings to defensibility through sheer force of will and the survival skills of an Eagle Scout.
What has sustained the heartbeat of Love's persona, through the publicity wrecks and sugar comas, has always been her undistilled faith in the power of pop music. She's a student of pop history, and most people don't give her credit for that. She is, to use her own word, "pornorific," but she's not the junkie bimbo she pretends to be. Yet.
She made her bed, she'll lie in it:
Kurt Loder: Was punk any kind of a rebellion for you?
Love: No, because the punk thing, for me, was more my geography. I was a total Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, then later Smiths freak...but I lived on the West Coast, so that was my pool to pull from. The guy from Pavement came up to me and he was like, "You're so brave." I was like, "Why?" He was like, "To cover a Bunnymen song! I wouldn't have the nerve." Nobody admits that the Bunnymen were the greatest band. I like Social Distortion because they were melodic, but I like Cheap Trick better.
One time, KROQ was having their Flashback Weekend, and I was singing every word to "The Killing Moon," and Kurt was like, "Man, this music you like is so romantic." I was like, "Yeah, alright?" But I did like Flipper, we were on very common ground with Flipper. But I mean, none of that--Black Flag--it wasn't me, and I'll be the first to admit it.
Loder: Not many people will anymore.
Love: Well, that's what I think. I think you should admit the embarrassing stuff. I think the embarrassing stuff makes you more vulnerable, and it's cooler. [People say,] "Stooges, Velvet Underground: my influences. Butthole Surfers." Oh, shut up! You know every word to, like, "Pretty in Pink." Backwards.
Joe Strummer said to me [when I told him I was moving to Minneapolis to start a band], "You are the worst guitar player I have ever heard." I had only just started in earnest, and I have gotten a lot better....I'm fine, I'm fine. I am fine. I have a style. What's funny is that a lot of my songs are complete Bauhaus rip-offs. My guitar playing is totally picked up from Will Sergeant and Johnny Marr, referenced from these British bands, and nobody would have guessed that, because of the persona that's been foisted on me.