Slow Boy

There’s a whole load of shouting and squally guitars and a blistering guitar solo in this recent collaboration between J Mascis and Kim Gordon (pictured above with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein), done with or for Converse and free to download. It starts noisy and gets progressively noisier, sounding not unlike both their previous band’s late 80s peaks. But who is the slow boy?

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Girl In A Band

I read Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl In A Band last week and very good it was too. The book divides into three main parts: her upbringing in California and her entry onto the world of art in the late 60s and early 70s; her move to New York and the best part of three decades spent in Sonic Youth and married to Thurston Moore; the bringing up a young family of her own while being part of an experimental guitar band and the effects of Thurston Moore’s affair and the break up of her marriage. The entire book is cut through with a sense of loss and questioning, as the ramifications of Thurston’s actions lead her to re-assess most of what went before. The breakdown of the marriage clearly brings the band to an end- more loss. Her childhood also contained the loss of a brother to mental illness and she constantly questions her relationships- with men, with art, with life. The chapters are often brief but full of insight, a series of postcards from her life. By the 90s the book also brings in a wide supporting cast, including Kurt Cobain (more loss), the New York art and fashion worlds, the gentrification of the city (loss again), Beck, and The Beastie Boys. It’s sad in parts, angry and furious in places too, moving but uplifting too as a new Kim emerges at the end. It’s a thoroughly affecting read and another first rate female rock autobiography from the last couple of years to hold up alongside Viv Albertine’s and Tracey Thorn’s books.

Sonic Youth moved from indie to major in the 1990s, having seen the pitfalls of The Replacements and Husker Du doing the same in the 80s and wanted to avoid making the same mistakes. Their output didn’t really suffer- Goo (on Geffen) stands up strongly, close to Daydream Nation and their 80s indie-punk classics. Dirty Boots, Kool Thing and Bull In The Heather are all just as good as Teenage Riot (well, almost as good as Teenage Riot), Expressway To Yr Skull and Death Valley ’69. They were just recorded in bigger, more expensive studios.

Death Valley ’69

Ciccone

In 1988 Sonic Youth put out The Whitey Album, not very well disguised as Ciccone Youth and in tribute to Madonna Louise Ciccone. Most of the attention was on the record’s cover versions. These had been put out as a single on New Alliance in 1986 and were expanded out for the album. Coming at a time when Sonic Youth were being praised to the heavens for Daydream Nation this was possibly an effective way of defusing some of the hype- some noise, contributions from Mike Watt, jokey covers plus a hip reference to krautrock with the song Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu! The cover of the album was a photocopied close up of Madonna’s face. Madonna apparently gave her blessing to it, remembering the band from her clubbing and Danceteria days. Ciccone Youth did their Madonna thing on Into The Groove(y) and Burnin’ Up. Someone on Youtube has done the decent thing and set the music to clips of Desperately Seeking Susan (the only Madonna film that is actually watchable).

Better still though was their version of Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love. The video and vocal were recorded in a karaoke booth for $25- D.I.Y. punk rock in attitude, style and cost. It was also a very effective way of sending up Palmer’s video with Kim Gordon singing the song deadpan and dancing with images from the Vietnam War flashing over the top.

This is the standard setter and last word in ironic cover versions. And still sounds great.