The energy being expended to remind everyone of Courtney Love's edginess and relevance should set off serious warning bells.
A solid decade has passed since the singer-songwriter's last sashay through the spotlight, with the well-received 1998 disc Celebrity Skin. The ensuing years found Love occasionally up but more often down, fighting with seemingly everyone she encountered and bristling at corporate attempts to co-opt the memory of Kurt Cobain, her late husband.
Shambling solo albums and serious personal troubles gave way to a Hole reunion (of sorts; Love is the only remaining original member) and Nobody's Daughter, which has been gestating for nearly five years. If the genre or grunge rock were not already dead, Daughter would put the nail firmly in its coffin.
Little about the album, produced by Michael Beinhorn, Micko Larkin and Linda Perry, feels easy or enjoyable. Even at her most bilious and exposed, as on Celebrity Skin or 1994's Live Through This, Love managed to temper the sharp edges with engaging melodies. Daughter isn't abrasive so much as it's blandly homogenous, each track feeling utterly out of step with the sounds of now.
However, the uninspired music is merely a backdrop for Love's scathing lyrics. No one, least of all Love, is safe; she castigates lovers, friends and her own choices with a barely contained fury. This isn't therapy so much as a scorched-earth renewal -- only by laying waste to everything around her can she feel a sense of peace.
"Anguish and misery fall here like a dead star/And everything you ever said now tears me all apart," she moans on Honey. Love even obliquely rids herself of unwanted legacies: "I've pierced the last hole in my arm/To gouge out the pieces of you," she hisses on For Once in Your Life.
Even the mid-tempo Samantha, with its regrettably unprintable chorus, scalds like carelessly flung sulfuric acid.
Yet traces of vulnerability struggle to rise above the chaos; Letter to God, one of Daughter's fleetingly contemplative moments, hints at what might have been if Love had been less concerned with annihilating her tormentors -- not for nothing is one song subtitled Filthy Vengeance -- and more focused upon introspection.
Nobody's Daughter, a flurry of pre-release press notwithstanding, won't do much to restore Love's lost luster. Popular music has gravitated toward hip-hop and digital trickery and away from the howling earnestness of late-'90s alt-rock. For now, she's a woman out of step with the zeitgeist, left alone with her hatreds and resolutions.
"Oh, God, just get me out of here," Love sings on the title track. Sadly, listeners soon know exactly how she feels.
Download this: Letter to God
Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram pop music critic, 817-390-7713