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