Long ago Courtney Love joined the list of celebrities with a lot to say but not that much worth hearing - especially on record, where her output up to 2010 was two albums in 12 years. While 1998's million-selling-but-patchy 'Celebrity Skin' had two great moments in the title track and 'Malibu', her 2004 solo outing 'America's Sweetheart' was a dud that said Love's real passion was for what she said on the internet and not what she did in the studio. 'Nobody's Daughter' is, however, an improvement and in places rises above being the new soundtrack for the soap opera.
The years have taken things away from Love's voice and range (play these songs and then her strongest work, 1994's 'Live Through This', back-to-back and you'll hear what's been lost) and there are times here when her reaching for notes and inflexions recall the scene in 'Jaws' involving Robert Shaw and the blackboard - when the material's compelling, you make allowances, when it's ho-hum you're less forgiving. The hope is that she can develop further the Marianne Faithfull-style, seen-it-all power that appears on the three stand-out tracks: opener 'Nobody's Daughter', 'Honey' and 'Pacific Coast Highway'.
The other thing she needs to do is work on more grown-up songs. Love is now 45, and the punky 'Loser Dust' and grunge plod of 'Skinny Little Bitch' do nothing for her, while the barbed 'Samantha' is undignified. The world has enough stars already that don't know their age and can't do a Springsteen or Iggy and deliver it with the same conviction as days gone by. When it comes to punishing the amps, Love's not going to improve on what she did in the past, and there's always someone younger who can do more damage.
It says much for Love's ability to keep 'the brand' going that after flops and meltdowns she can still find major labels that are willing to pony up to release her records. At its best, 'Nobody's Daughter' suggests she might yet repay their faith and prove the doubters wrong. Now if she can just remember to let the music do the talking...