Just tore through Kim Gordon’s bio, Girl In A Band. It’s a good read. It’s a quick read.
As a bio, it hits all the stages in her life, but it does so with a light brush. It’s not a drama-fueled bio à la Mary Karr. It’s not as philosophical, nor does it delve as deeply and shed a light onto a specific time period like Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
At times it feels like a hit and run overview, but within that, it’s all good. The book is very much about Gordon’s development as an artist and her quest to live the artistic life. I use the word “artist” consciously, because though Gordon is best known as a musician, it’s her interest in other art forms that serves as her wellspring. To be fair, Sonic Youth always came across as “arty”. I always liked that about them. Gordon doesn’t shy away from this conceit. Her inspiration comes from folks like Mike Kelley, Dan Graham, and Gerhard Richter.
The book is framed by the dissolution of her marriage, and that story gives the book its arc. Gordon has moved on from Sonic Youth, is starting new bands, has re-focused her energies on her art career, and is moving towards a different stage in her life. That change is lurking everywhere in Girl In A Band.
For those looking for the comprehensive Sonic Youth tell-all/tome, this is not it. Gordon takes the stance that the band’s history has been well documented elsewhere. She moves through the band’s career by devoting chapters to specific songs and/or albums that resonated with her. It’s not the broad view that she takes, but the more personal glint into the world of Sonic Youth. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It does leave you wanting more stories and insights, but what’s on the page is strong.
Gordon is pretty open talking about the challenges and triumphs of rock and roll parenting, as well. Though she doesn’t regale the reader with story after story, her take is insightful and heartfelt.
Finally, art is the core for her. It informs her work as a musician and artist throughout her career. Personally, I love when artists take their inspiration from mediums that are not their own. This is Gordon’s m.o., so I loved that aspect of the book. If I have any complaint is that the photos in the book aren’t that strong, and the book is devoid of any telling photos of her artwork. As much of a fan as I am, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know her work as a fine artist. She talks enough about it in the book, that some photos would have been nice.
Small quibbles for sure.