Stevie's wicca-sexpot spaciness is the main ingredient in Love's third incarnation. The wicked witch is reborn as wispy stargazer. Heavenly bodies "crash and burn" across her mind's skies (the sweet and dreamy "Malibu,") and across her memory (the saccharine and dreamier "Boys on the Radio"). But after the record opens with five consecutive knockout rockers, culminating in the real grunge, "Reasons to Be Beautiful," Courtney encounters a dark star in the form of co-writer Billy Corgan.
Despite his as-yet-unsubstantiated claim of "steering" Erlandson toward the riffs that make "Celebrity Skin" and "Awful" such blockbusters, his most characteristic contribution is the maudlin "Dying." "I am so dumb/just beam me up," sings Courtney-cum-Billy. Courtney's voice literally sounds like Billy at his dimmest--as if she sold him her soul at the arena-rock crossroads for a free facial and lunch at Vida.
And her vita is dolce, indeed. On "Reasons to Be Beautiful," Courtney sings, "It's better to rise than fade away," off-quoting Kurt's suicide-note citation of Neil Young. When Celebrity Skin is great--when its almost desperate dispassion burns like a stillborn supernova, when her boys turn our radios into halls of smoke and mirrors--then Love is a stone visionary and a saintly vision. A Cassandra of smack. A Beatrice of bullshit. She MAKES THE FUCKING MONEY. And then she flies away. Malibu awaits.