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Record Rating: ***1/2

Courtney Love - America's Sweetheart She’s one of rock music’s biggest female icons. And she’s been living on the edge for quite awhile now. For after her husband - Nirvana front man – the legendary Kurt Cobain killed himself - Love's life has been a bit like a rocket's – from reaching outer space on releasing two Gold Releases with her rock band Hole - 1994's classic Live Through This and the 1998 Grammy Award nominated Celebrity Skin – before crashing and burning out on re-entry with the band for good.

And now she’s back. America's Sweetheart is the name of her first solo effort and it’s not bad at the first listen. The lead single and album opener Mono blasts you back into the 90's, with a sound somewhere between Holes’s classic Live Through This album and their poppier Celebrity Skin album. Did You Miss Me? Courntey snarls sardonically, setting the sarcastic yet slightly tragic tone of the ironically named America's Sweetheart.

The album, rather unexpectedly, works best on the slower tracks and ballads. Hold On To Me is a totally unabashed power ballad that resembles Hit So Hard and Boys On The Radio from Celebrity Skin with a hint of late 80's metal added to the mix for good measure. Combining ballet-slipper softness with chainsaw-wielding rage, Love returns to the catharsis of her band Hole’s 1994's Live Through This to create an album rich with introspection, self-loathing, and ultimately, redemption.

Self-absorbed as she may be, it is her total understanding of self that affords the listener an emotional view of the surreal life Love has lead since wedding Kurt Cobain in 1992. Fame, death, movies, fashion awards, and custody battles are somehow the norm in Courtney's strange existence. And she has been busy getting her act together. Post-Cobain, Love also graced the cover of Rolling Stone, went into rehab (again), got resculpted by plastic surgeons, experienced at least one drug overdose, sued her former record label and went to jail for drug possession. She fought the members of Nirvana over the legal rights to Cobain's songs and recordings before they settled. Recent breast-baring stunts have included flashing David Letterman and letting a complete stranger suckle her on a sidewalk.

Measure all the ink and air time her bad behaviour has been getting her - and it's easy to conclude that Love is either a master of self-destruction or of calculated self-promotion. But that’s not going to help her sell records if the music’s not good. And it’s not. It could have been a much better effort overall, after all Love and her band Hole were one of the coolest alternative rock acts to come out of the nineties, post Nirvana.

Read our other reviews:

Guns N Roses - Greatest Hits       Lionel Ritchie - Just For You      Janet Jackson - Damita Jo       Fountains Of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers

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