Love In Vain


Ten years ago, at a public memorial gathering for Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love joined a group of mourners and told them that the mass media would never understand Cobain's greatness because the media was dominated by out-of-touch baby boomers. The sentiment seemed to sum up the generational divide that had grown between flower-power graybeards and the young indie rockers whom they had failed as parents.

A decade later, Love sounds a lot like the nostalgic boomers she once decried. Obsessed with old-fashioned notions of rock stardom, and openly fretting that rock is dead, the most shameless name dropper in popular music ("I really did hang out with Russell Crowe") devotes much of America's Sweetheart to ransacking rock 'n' roll history in a search for meaning as fruitless as a middle-aged man looking for answers by digging out his old childhood baseball-card collection. The litany of rock-school references is endless: "Gabba gabba hey," "all of tomorrow's parties," "fun fun fun," "all my love's in vain," "the song remains the same."

From "Teenage Whore" to "Violet," Love has frequently managed to pin down the conflicted psychodrama of her life with off-kilter lucidity. But it's neither

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America's Sweetheart

Courtney Love


sexism nor she-killed-Curt antipathy that leads to the conclusion that she's musically unimaginative and a singer with much attitude and scant skill. Even with a squadron of co-writers (including pop collaborator du jour, Linda Perry), most of the rockers here are tired four-chord riffs that meld "Celebrity Skin" with the old MTV theme that played over the image of Neil Armstrong on the moon. On "I'll Do Anything," she takes Cobain's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" riff and appropriates the chorus vocal from Blur's "Song 2." The result, not surprisingly, feels a bit anachronistic.

These tracks are at least preferable to the mellow, SoCal Courtney who apes the guitar figure for "Needle and the Damage Done" on "Sunset Strip," or whose closing power ballad, "Never Gonna Be the Same" rivals Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" in pure cheese content. Only the new-wavey "The Zeplin Song," where Love mocks classic-rock's old guard, strikes the right sardonic tone. Of course, it would have been timelier - and funnier - 30 years ago. Not unlike Love herself. •