Approximately thirty seconds into America’s Sweetheart, Courtney Love asks “Did you miss me?” The fact is that in her absence, whilst Brody of the Distillers has been presenting herself as an ersatz Love, growling and wearing bright red lipstick, music has been a less colourful place without the ex-Hole singer. One only has to look to Love’s contributions to some of the most amusing social blunders of the modern world to remind oneself of her celebrity quality. And her band weren’t bad, either.
This album, however, is not the wonderfully unhinged comeback it could, and perhaps should, have been. It’s not that it’s a bad album. A bad album would have been more forgivable – a self-destructive 11 minute-long concept album focussing on drug abuse. For example. A good album would have been even better. But this is so very average – so risk-free, so soft-rock, so just there. And the most frustrating side to all this is that it seems to be the work of a singer who, while still potent in herself, made one mistake which terminally restricted herself before she even started – to rid herself of a permanent backing of musicians.
Because lyrically and vocally, Love remains a distance ahead of most of her contemporaries. “Full of ecstacy, hard drugs and bad luck” is one of many memorable lyrical moments, and her voice has lost none of its trademark ferocity and instability. What lets the whole album down, leaving it a merely pleasant record rather than an essential one, is the songwriting; Love, filling the hole left by, well, Hole, has drafted in various songwriters and session musicians, and as a result sings her heartfelt lyrics over music that Pink would relax to. Half a record is better than no record at all, but next time the music needs to match Love’s ability.