Sunday, March 15, 2015

Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon

(hb; 2015: rock 'n' roll memoir)

From the inside flap:

"For many, Kim Gordon, vocalist, bassist and founding member of Sonic Youth, has always been the epitome of cool.

"Sonic Youth is one of the most influential and successful bands to emerge from the post-punk New York scene, and their legacy continues to loom large over the landscape of indie rock and American pop culture. Almost as celebrated as the band's defiantly dissonant sound was the marriage between Gordon and her husband, fellow Sonic Youth found and lead guitarist Thurston Moore. So when Matador Records released a statement in the fall of 2011 announcing that -- after twenty-seven years -- the two were splitting, fans were devastated. In the middle of a crazy world, they'd seemed so solid.

"What did this mean? What comes next? What came before?

"In Girl in a Band, the famously reserved superstar speaks candidly about her past and the future. From her childhood in the sunbaked suburbs of Southern California, growing up with a mentally ill sibling who often sapped her family of emotional capital, to New York's downtown art and music scene in the eighties and nineties and the birth of a band that would pave the way for bands like Nirvana, as well as help inspire the Riot Grrl generation, here is an edgy and evocative portrait of a life in art."


Girl is a standout, thoughtful and atypical music memoir in that it doesn't read like a VH-1 Behind the Music episode with its usual drug-addled rise-and-fall-of-a-band arcs. Instead, Gordon's nonfiction book is smart, precise and effective in its quick-sketch, warm mentions of her emotions and experiences as a woman, artist, musician, wife and mother. There is -- for this reader, at least -- enough details about Sonic Youth's music and songs that were particularly moving for her, though bass guitarist geeks might be disappointed at how little she writes about her instrument tunings (which varied over the course of the band's thirty-year period).

This is an excellent rock 'n' roll and art memoir, one worth owning.

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