Sound — 8
Celebrity Skin, Hole's sixth and final album released back in 1998 from grunge and post-grunge record label god Geffen, is, at a glance, an average pop album of the late nineties. For die-hard Hole fans, however, the final album may be in itself as unsatisfying as rock bitch and front woman Courtney Love's solo career and as bland as Melissa Auf Der Maur's one-woman bass entrepreneurship, in some ways leaving a gaping hole and a sense of disappointment in place of fulfilment. And yet, Celebrity Skin is a delightful, unabashedly pure trip the power-mad bitchiness, and who better a guide than Courtney Love to take us through that? If one reads Celebrity Skin not as an instalment, but instead as an entity in its own right, it is easy to see the progression. Less raw than previous albums and as equally driving, in parts even more so, Celebrity Skin is an album to enjoy, from the pounding bass line behind Use Once & Destroy to the unashamedly driving crunchy guitar chords opening Reasons to be Beautiful and then to the gentle acoustic chords with orchestral accompaniments of Northern Star, Celebrity Skin deals well.
Lyrics — 6
Admire her junkie turned diva persona or loathe it, one has to pay tribute to Love's lyrical talents. This is Courtney's last stand, and stand she will, defiant and proud of herself, as the first track - the title track - makes clear immediately with a rousing Oh, make me over/I'm all I want to be. But for all this defiance, there are paradoxally self-hating lyrics in Awful, showing Love's awareness of her change in musical style and of other people's opinion with I was punk!/Now I'm just stupid!/I'm so awful. Remniscient of anything? How about the opening lines from Mono? However, Courtney's hoarse and shall we say weathered vocals have remained something of a sore point for me personally. For six albums she's managed to maintain a sound of rawness and bitchiness; it's old. This isn't half a step from screaming haphazardly, albeit in tune, and the whispering at the start of Dying is like a tickle in the cochlea. Melodic yelling isn't anything new, and when she does try to sing - Dying, Northern Star - she sounds hoarse and burned out.
Overall Impression — 6
Whilst dissimilar to all other Hole albums, Celebrity Skin isn't to be dismissed readily. Give it a go, you never know, you might like the pop thing they had going in the end. Let's not let this spoil an otherwise valiantly self-explanatory finale to a career spanning seven years, unabashedly pop and honest. On the other hand, perhaps it wouldn't have killed these guys to finish on something at least a little more memorable than Petals. Never mind, eh?