Thursday, March 12, 2015

Book Review: Girl In A Band – Kim Gordon

How much is the content and tone of an autobiography determined by when you write it? Kim Gordon’s autobiography, ‘Girl In A Band’ comes just a few years after she split from her long-time husband and Sonic Youth band member Thurston Moore. In the book Moore comes across as a somewhat distant figure, or more distant than I would expect for someone who the author had spent over three decades with. Is that because he was a naturally distant person? It seems that may be part of it, but I wonder if Moore would be so marginal to Gordon’s story if this book had been written, say, fifteen years ago?

On the other hand, while Gordon was certainly hurt by Moore’s betrayal (he was seeing another woman, his current partner, for several years behind Gordon’s back), she still takes space to talk about his qualities as a musician, a father, and a person. It would be fascinating to read Moore’s account of their last years together as well. Did he really start to feel like he was moving away from Gordon as early as she suspects in hindsight? Did he really intend to break it off with the other woman whenever Gordon caught him out, or was it just a delaying tactic before an inevitable end?

Gordon’s and Moore’s separation forms the beginning and end of the book, but she covers pretty much every major aspect of her life. Smartly reasoning that a lot has been written about Sonic Youth over the years, Gordon focuses on the tracks and moments that had the most meaning to her, hence providing an account of their career that only she can provide. Her family life will probably not be the part that most people are picking up this book for, but she provides just enough background to get a sense of where she came from and how early life affected her. Other musicians of the era are discussed – she thinks about Kurt Cobain a lot, does not hold Courtney Love is much esteem, and has a huge regard for Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.

Finally, perhaps in part because I am a new parent myself I found her accounts of raising a kid while remaining in a rock band interesting, although as she points out this is a far different prospect for a new mother than father. Gordon may not have the eloquence of other musicians whose autobiographies I have read in the past few years such as Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Morrissey, or even David Byrne, but those who love the ‘80s and ‘90s American alternative rock scene will likely enjoy what she has to observe and say.   

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