Wrapped in what must be the most understated title ever we get Kim Gordon’s autobiography. Kim was the bass player in hugely influential guitar noise band Sonic Youth and for over 30 years, the band forged new ground for guitar based music. Always evolving, forever moving.
In an interesting twist we get the last days of the band to begin with. Kim was married to Thurston Moore for 27 years, all that time playing together in Sonic Youth, and when that marriage hit the rocks the band did too. When talking about their relationship it feels at times like I was a fly on the wall of a therapy session. This book’s publishing must have had a cathartic effect on Kim. Some home truths are exposed.
Once that’s out of the way we hear of her youth. Growing up in L.A. A year out in Hawaii, and another in Hong Kong. Early holidays in Oregon. I have vivid memories as a kid going to the cinema to see an old Peter Lorrie movie. My memory of it is that it was called “The Hand”, but Kim reminds me in the book that it was “The Beast With Five Fingers”. While I was hiding behind the seat in front of me at the cinema, Kim was in fear that the chopped-off hand with a life of its own was under her bed waiting to pounce. I guess that film had a profound effect on both of us, however Kim’s life after that was one of beatnik jazz, cool music and New Yorker magazines.
As autobiographies are tales of people’s live’s to date, we hear the sadness of her fathers passing, her older brother’s mental illness, her breeding in art and tales of former lovers including the story of an on off relationship with Simpsons score composer Danny Elfman.
It was another Dan, Grantham, who introduced punk rock to an open minded Kim Gordon and who stated that rock an roll was more important than art. Kim was more no wave with its vulnerabilities than punk rock with its attitude and aligned herself with that scene
Before putting this book in my hands, Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth were, to me, all about New York. It’s the city I associate the band with. Of course, being the U.S. everyone is transient so Kim ended up there, but sees it now as a city changed. 35 years later it is unrecognisable from the cheap, dangerous and eclectic land it was… It kind of sounds like Dublin. Major retailers and very few quirks. Capital is driving out innovators. “New York City today is a city on steroids.”
Much of the book is made up of short stories, snippets from time. Sonic youth collaborated with many interesting people and many of these are mentioned. Kurt Cobain, Raymond Pettibon, Spike Jonez, Chuck D, Henry Rollins and more. It’s a list of those whose influence has helped shaped alternative culture in the U.S. Of course, Kim is a strong independent female voice swamped at times in this mans world. In her description of Karen Carpenter where Kim States “she was an extreme version of what a lot of women suffer from – a lack of control over things other than their bodies, which turns the female body into a tool for power – good, bad, or ugly” it sums up a generation better than legions of sociologists’ tomes.
Now, with Sonic Youth finished, art plays a large part in her life but the art of music is never far away and although she exhibits in a New York gallery, I’ve no doubt there will always be music in her life.