Book Club: Kim Gordon 'Girl In A Band'

by - Friday, May 20, 2016

Don't let that music journalism degree fool you - there is a lot of music I know literally nothing about. While I definitely abide by a 'give everything a go' mentality when it comes to discovering new bands, there are only so many hours in a day and sometimes, there are those classic bands that are almost too celebrated, too recommended, that it almost puts you off giving them a go.

Some of my pals reading this may be rolling their eyes, but Sonic Youth were one of those bands for me. I recognised the artwork to legendary album 'Goo', I was aware of the names Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore as the co-frontpeople and I knew Lee Renaldo from my favourite Cribs song, 'Be Safe'. Aside from those pop pickers facts, I knew nothing else and had never actually listened to a single song of theirs.

All of this put me in a remarkably refreshing position when it came to reading Kim Gordon's memoir, 'Girl In A Band'. It's not very often that you get a chance to read someone's autobiography without having any preconceptions from their earlier works or previous writings about them. Put simply, I stuck 'Girl In A Band' on my library list because the title intrigued me - it suggested feminist themes, looked pretty bad ass and I assumed that it would clue me in quickly as to a band I knew I should know more about.

Within just a few pages, it was clear that 'Girl In A Band' wouldn't disappoint of any of these levels. My total ignorance to Sonic Youth's story meant I had to trust Kim's recollection of events absolutely, which meant I was on her side instantly. I felt her pain accordingly - the struggles with mental illness in the family, her attempts to carve out her own identity through artistic self-expression, and the slow betrayal that came at the hands of her bandmate and husband Thurston.

From the very off, the book has a vivid sense of place and a strong focus on location in relation to mood. Whether she's roaming the cavernous halls of another nameless stadium in another nameless city or discovering herself via the filters of life in L.A, New York, Northampton and numerous places besides, Kim writes very powerfully about setting. People are just as important - it's near-on impossible to count the number of people mentioned in passing within 'Girl In A Band', but it never feels like name-dropping - instead it's about displaying how incestuous the music industry was and still is, how creative projects come together as a result of chance meetings and mutual interests.




For fans of Sonic Youth, I would imagine this to be a highly satisfying read. Although it is all filtered through Kim's eyes and is naturally as self-indulgent as such a book should be, I didn't detect too heavy a bias - she speaks mainly of herself and her emotions rather than trying to second-guess others. The musical anecdotes are plentiful and lovingly recounted, making it a satisfying read for anyone who is interested in the heady days of the 80s New York Music Scene.

I actually found it quite inspirational. 'Girl In A Band' holds some great life lessons in terms of the people you can meet and the opportunities that can rise just from saying yes and going with the flow. It's also a strong lesson in creativity, and listening to your own creative instincts without pigeonholing yourself into one calling or hobby (something I co-incidentally blogged about previously). Kim shows how okay it is to have fingers in multiple pies, channelling creativity through whatever people and channel feels right at the time. And of course, there are it's feminist moments - the power of owning your own sexuality and the right to express it, to enjoy fashion without apologising and to discover the strength that comes from being a good mother. Who knows - it might just be enough for me to finally give Sonic Youth that listen.





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