Review: San Francisco Chronicle

Lemonheads Audience in the Mood for Love
November 11, 1993, by Michael Snyder

”I was born five blocks from here,” said Courtney Love from the stage of Slim’s on Tuesday night. Midway through her performance, the lead singer of the aggressive punk-derived quartet Hole was finally addressing the audience. ”How many people in this room do I owe money to? You? Liar! You owe me $ 20.”

The occasion was an alternative-rock triple bill — the Lemonheads, Hole and Walt Mink — booked into Slim’s for the first of two nights. Hole was scheduled to precede nominal headliner the Lemonheads. But Love came close to running away with the show, as her clever, unflinching songs and tender/tough persona lessened the impact of the Lemonheads’ jangling punk-pop. That’s typical of Love, the explosive, media-wise wife of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. She’s made an art of sheer bravado. Scuffling in the Bay Area rock scene during the early ’80s, she spent a couple of weeks as the lead singer
of an early incarnation of the San Francisco band Faith No More. Testing for the role of Nancy Spungen in Alex Cox’s punk-udrama ”Sid & Nancy,” she ended up with a smaller part, but was cast subsequently as the femme fatale in Cox’s ”Straight to Hell” feature.

She began to make a stir in rock circles a few years ago as the leader of Hole, after a debut album ”Pretty on the Inside” that was one of the best releases in the first spate of ”Riot Grrrl” recordings. After she married Cobain, she put her own band on the back burner while Nirvana became one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

Moving between Los Angeles and Seattle, Love and Cobain had a daughter, created a furor in the press about their alleged drug use, and then proclaimed themselves clean and ready to rock. Now, Love has come out from the wings to give her husband a little competition in the marketplace.

At Slim’s, she wore a blood-red mini- dress and matching red lipstick. She was crowned by a halo of flyaway bleached blond hair. Her voice was hoarse, but that was to be expected. Although you can hear a bit of the old Cobain howl at times, she sings and shouts like Joan Jett with strep throat.

As ever, Love came off as bruised and unbowed. From the opening salvo of ”Credit” (”You don’t get credit in the straight world . . . until you die”) through ”Beautiful Son,” ”Pee Girl,” ”Teenage Whore,” and ”Asking For It,” she depicts the conflict between society’s expectations of women and reality. Nothing was more disturbing than her quiet version of ”Doll Parts” — a fragmented view of the artist and woman as product and object of desire.

As her band thrashed out the requisite garage-rock, she provided the juice. ”You should learn how to say no,” she sang on the last song of the set.


Although the crowd responded favorably to Hole on Tuesday night, there was no hue and cry for an encore. The reaction to the Lemonheads was more enthusiastic, as befits the trio’s headlining position on this tour.

I’m sure it’s a night-to-night thing. Love, with her brash, confident personality and her gutsy, revealing lyrics, is a performer who can overshadow nearly anyone else at a concert, regardless of position on the bill.

Compared to the raw, slam- bang sound of Hole, the Lemonheads won points on style. But for pure viscera and dynamic tension, Love was the drug.