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Year Of Release: 1991
Overall rating =

Have to take Courtney's word for it - I don't see that much "inside" here.

Best song: maybe if I checked the tablature... if it even exists... nah, probably wouldn't help.

Track listing: 1) Teenage Whore; 2) Babydoll; 3) Garbage Man; 4) Sassy; 5) Good Sister Bad Sister; 6) Mrs Jones; 7) Berry; 8) Loaded; 9) Starbelly; 10) Pretty On The Inside/Clouds.

Hey, this is the second time I'm writing this review and guess what, this is still unquestionably one of the worst albums I've ever heard in my life. Supposedly some things never change. And I don't mean Courtney Love herself - she has. But as for her debut album, time just doesn't seem to be on its side all that much.

Let's start this review with the only positive thing I have to say about this whole business: assuredly Courtney Love does have a lot of gall. She's not exactly the first "woman rebel" in rock, far from it, but she does set a relatively high shocking standard while only occasionally falling into complete parody status. Whether she was being documentally sincere about it or just wanted good press - I have no idea. A little bit of both, probably, and besides, there's nothing like a few years of reform school experience to get a great basis for self-publicity. And given the date of the album's issue - July 1991 - it's clear that she wasn't merely jumping on the grunge bandwagon, which was barely getting started at the time.

But in metaphorical terms, Pretty On The Inside was the Yin to the Yang of Nirvana's Nevermind, and I mean more than just the male/female opposition here. There's plenty of spirit, and even plentier of noise and loud, abrasive guitars verging on the point of making me use the word "abrasive" again and then go hang myself in the closet. There's only one defect, and looks like it came with the factory: the entire record refuses to house even one interesting songwriting idea. And I stomp on the word "refuse": it doesn't forget, it refuses. I should, of course, have taken it as a warning sign that Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame was listed as one of the co-producers. But then it wouldn't have stopped me from hearing what I did hear, would it?

The formula of all these songs, from a technical viewpoint, is simple. You patch together a couple of chords. You add shocking lyrics with endless references to whores, fucking, drugs, perversion, and death, preferably ones with a Freudian interpretation ringing the doorbell, preferably ones that will sound twice as shocking when bawled out by a female at the top of her lungs. Then you crank up the volume and whee, away we go, and the fun doesn't stop for forty minutes. But then again, why am I telling you this? You probably have your own MTV experiences, I'm sure.

Alas, the problem never lies so much in the album's ugliness as it lies elsewhere. Ugly I can take. The Stooges were ugly. So, to some extent, was Patti Smith; so were the already mentioned Sonic Youth. Can, that is, but not must; the mere fact that here is Courtney Love and she's exposing her pain is not enough to make me embrace it because we all have our own fucking pain and if you wanna impose yours on somebody else, well, you must fuckin' deserve it, mustn't you? This kind of freshly extracted pain is like thread out of a silkworm - nobody needs it unless you can weave it into something useful, or, at least, beautiful. When you do not - it's raw material, and it serves pretty little purpose. In fact, it's boring.

Now that I have altogether heard about three hundred minutes of this album, desperately seeking melodies, I believe I have a tiny drop of moral right to insist that you, the occasional reader of Only Solitaire, do not need to hear more than ten seconds of it. Preferably just the opening ten seconds, which will give you all the picture and more than that. One distorted, messy guitar chord, a bass line that could probably be learnt in less than a minute, and the following lyrics: "When I was a teenage whore, my mother asked me, she said, baby, what for?" As cheap as the suggestion is... maybe staying a teenage whore (or, as they call it, "Kinderwhore") and not getting deep inside the music business would have been a good idea. This already sounds like a parody, and for a supposedly hyper-sincere artistic statement to sound like a parody is the ultimate disgrace.

Another example: the culmination of the endless, bleeding 'Mrs Jones' (an insult to the Posies' song of the same name, though, thankfully, not a cover) is just Courtney going "Shit! Shit! Shit!" for what seems like ages. I could go on, but I don't think it's necessary. It just brings on sweet memories of Iggy Pop and how he could be this wild terrifying demon with the same kind of minimalistic caveman shrieking, whereas Courtney just sounds like... well, just like whatever she's supposed to sound like on here: a low-grade piece of tormented junkie scum who's crying "Shit!" because she is shit, not even because she feels like shit, if you catch the difference. Not that I'm really calling Mrs Cobain "shit", Mr Attorney. I'm calling her "clueless".

Now supposedly writing a decent rock song isn't that hard to do, and with a little help from drug-free friends a few tracks on here could have been turned into something moderately catchy, but I have a hard time choosing - maybe 'Good Sister Bad Sister' qualifies half a notch higher than the rest. Hey, I remember how it goes! "Scar tissue, blood blister, suck up on the dregs sister". Your basic nursery rhyme from the utterly hellish mind of a twelve year old. Speaking of which, yes, the lyrics are bad. Bad bad bad. Am I exaggerating or is the word 'scar' in every one of these songs? Nah, not quite. Let's make up a little thesaurus here. Die. Suck. Hole. Whore. Blood. Cancer. Slit. Slut. (That's the irregular past tense to "slit", I suppose). Poison. Rotten. Fuck. Clot. Dick. Jagged. (No little pill, though). Choke. Dark. Waste. Void. Fever. Soul. (Of course - how can you do without "soul"?). Stupid. Suicide. Narcotic. Jizz. Abortion. NIGHT BLOOMING SICKLE CELL, whatever that might mean. Also the word "incredulous" is used twice, if I'm not mistaken, but it somehow feels misplaced all the same. And the crown of it all - "slutkiss girl". Eat that, Madonna.

That sort of winds up my thesis on this kind of vocabulary. Wait, though, I have to make it rhyme so it can be better memorised. Let's see now... "Die, you jagged rotten fuck, /Cancer-blooded slit-slut suck, /Stupid jizz-filled poisoned soul, /Dark abortion, clotted Hole, / Waste and choke in fever Hell, / You NIGHT BLOOMING SICKLE CELL!"

Okay, that was horrible, but not much more so than any of the actual lyrics on this album, and at least I'm not charging you anything to listen to me yelling this out at top volume. Christ, do you even realize how goddamn long these songs are? Some of them go way over five minutes, adding excruciatedness (if that wasn't a word, it is now) to boredom. In all honesty, though, it all seems like one big song - the breaks are there just so you could catch your breath before being plunged into the hot piss again.

Oh, I forgot, there's also a track called 'Starbelly' which "samples" Neil Young's 'Cinnamon Girl' and Stevie Nicks' 'Rhiannon' along with something else I forgot about. This is most certainly a message to Courtney Love's potential audience that she is officially building up her image and musical identity by combining gruff grunge music with creepy modernist romanticism. Given that Pretty On The Inside doesn't show us one ounce of the talent as can be displayed by either Neil or Stevie, I view this as a pompous, arrogant, and ultimately offensive gesture.

The best use for this record is to be reminded, every once in a while, about how cruelly you've been underrating and taking for granted all of your favourite - and even not-so favourite - records. If prime, first-rate crap like this can sell and actually be loved by somebody, this is simply more of a red-hot stimulus for you to treasure everything else in your catalogue, from the Beatles to Black Sabbath and from the Bangles to Pearl Jam. Yes, I do see how it can be loved. It's simply that I realize that if I find a way to love it, there will be no reason for me not to love everything else, and I don't have that much love in me and I don't even wanna know those who do. So if you happen to love Pretty On The Inside, please be sure to hate some of my favourite records - and maybe we can get a deal out of that.


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