Published Feb 20, 2015As a member of Sonic Youth, Body/Head and all the projects that came before and in between, Kim Gordon has defined herself as a Girl in a Band for a long time now. In her memoir of that name, she candidly writes about her life from being raised in California to a brief, disappointing stint at Toronto's York University to her hugely influential move to New York City, and finally the transition to her family life in residential Northampton, MA.
The reader's introduction to Gordon comes with the book's opening anecdote about Sonic Youth's final show. She's the last band member to walk on stage, and it immediately sets up the recurring motif of Gordon living in the shadows of the two most important men in her life. She shares incredibly personal accounts of growing up with an overbearing, schizophrenic older brother who tormented her as a child, but whom she can't help but worship. Then there's her relationship with Sonic Youth co-founder and husband of 27 years, Thurston Moore.
It's incredibly humanizing to read Gordon's account of his affair with a younger woman that ended their marriage; she doesn't play up the tabloid sensationalism that ensued upon the news breaking — in fact, she doesn't even mention the other woman (Eva Prinz) by name. It's the accidentally discovered text messages, followed by blown second chances, followed by a "keep the kid out of it, and follow through with the band's commitments" philosophy and the cliché mundanity of it all that brings one of rock music's icons of "cool" down to our mortal, everyday level. And if that doesn't shatter the illusion of cool, there's the hilarious revelation that Gordon watches their daughter Coco's band via YouTube, making Big Nils the only up-and-coming rock'n'roll band that doesn't want Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore to show their faces at a gig.
In addition to offering insight on the calculated ideas behind her creative endeavours — be it visual art projects, clothing lines or her multitude of musical incarnations — the stories from the book that are going to grab headlines are her encounters with iconic figures like Neil Young, Chuck D and Kurt Cobain. From the magic of seeing Nirvana live for the first time, to her growing mistrust of Courtney Love (after producing Hole's Pretty on the Inside), to her blatant dislike of Love (following an unsolicited punch to Kathleen Hanna's face side stage during Sonic Youth's 1995 Lollapalooza set), Gordon's frank depictions of her musical peers are some of the best bits of the book. Truly, there may be no better description of Billy Corgan than Gordon's simple, succinct: "Ewww," but she also shows off her sensitive side when recounting moments like getting the news of Cobain's death.
Ultimately, it's a story framed by heartbreak. The dissolution of Sonic Youth, and of Gordon and Moore's marriage, bookend the collection of stories told throughout Girl in A Band. It's an interesting, engaging account of the life of one of rock's more mysterious leading ladies — filling in the details of classic albums, shows, famous friendships and collaborations.
And if you happen to hate Courtney Love, you'll find a lot to relate to in this one. (Harper Collins)