Kim Gordon, founding member of Sonic Youth, fashion icon, and role model for a generation of women, now tells her story—a memoir of life as an artist, of music, marriage, motherhood, independence, and as one of the first women of rock and roll, written with the lyricism and haunting beauty of Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
Often described as aloof, Kim Gordon opens up as never before in Girl in a Band. Telling the story of her family, growing up in California in the ’60s and ’70s, her life in visual art, her move to New York City, the men in her life, her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, her music, and her band, Girl in a Band is a rich and beautifully written memoir.
Gordon takes us back to the lost New York of the 1980s and ’90s that gave rise to Sonic Youth, and the Alternative revolution in popular music. The band helped build a vocabulary of music—paving the way for Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins and many other acts. But at its core, Girl in a Band examines the route from girl to woman in uncharted territory, music, art career, what partnership means—and what happens when that identity dissolves.
Girl in a Band ends with her back in Los Angeles, focused with renewed determination on her work as a visual artist. The plot is not quite Medea, but this memoir is a kind of setting ablaze of a life’s work that for Gordon is now inextricable from heartbreak. “Marriage is a long conversation, someone once said, and maybe so is a rock band’s life,” she writes, of the sad and rainy day Sonic Youth took to the stage for the last time in Brazil. “A few minutes later, both were done.”
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Gossip about the breakdown of both her marriage and Sonic Youth will draw many to Gordon’s book. But she overrides it wonderfully, handling both with resigned simplicity and finding catharsis through the art she cherishes and a performance with an all-female line-up at Nirvana’s 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So much more than a rock biog, Girl In A Band is a unique record of the past 50 years of alternative culture.
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The overall feeling is one of levelheadedness, a little resignation, lots of anger and a permanent love of the power of art. She stays cool because she is cool, even in those rare moments when she’s not.
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As Gordon writes in her unflinching new memoir, “Girl in a Band,” they had been “[t]he couple everyone believed was golden and normal and eternally intact, who gave younger musicians hope they could outlast a crazy rock-and-roll-world.” “For some reason,” she writes later, “Thurston and I seemed to intersect with a generation of late baby boomers who lived in cities . . . and didn’t want to age the same way their own parents had.”
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