Days before the release of her group's last, critically worshipped album, Live Through This, Hole vocalist, lyricist and lead hellcat Courtney Love suffered through a wrenching event: the 1994 shotgun suicide of her husband, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. For Love, who wore Cobain's sweaters in mourning and toted around his ashes for a while, grieving was a public affair. Now, after temporarily shelving her music career to pursue movie stardom (The People Vs. Larry Flynt), the punk-rocker turned Vogue glamor queen abandons her old shock attack and opts for a surprisingly appealing pop-rock sound (with music composed mainly by herself, Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson and Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan). Still, Love crams these songs with imagery of death and anguish. She does some Hollywood bashing in "Awful" as well as in the title song ("Oh make me over/ I'm all I wanna be/A walking study/In demonology"), but it is Cobain whose ghost haunts tracks about the dark side of pop life and ungentle exits to eternity. On "Malibu," with its images of suicide by drowning, Love's pleading sounds as real as the urn she carried: "Oh come on be alive again/ Don't lay down and die."
Bottom Line: Former punk goes pop to winning effect