Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

This was not a Sonic Youth memoir. It’s a Kim Gordon memoir. A fact that plenty of many have debated on Goodreads. There seems to be some sort of divide among the two-star & three-star raters. Some rather Kim focus on the Sonic Youth years, while others complained she wasn’t delving enough into her childhood & Manhattan art scene years. Some complained she was being too harsh on people like Lana Del Ray or Billy Corgan, even accusing her of name-dropping. Others said she wasn’t being hard enough. Well, I liked her honesty. When those are the people you meet, you’re going to have to name-drop to comment otherwise there wouldn’t be any social interaction in her life. I think it’s way more rock for a celebrity to be honest about how they feel about other celebrities than to not comment, or worse, sugarcoat their dislike. That’s what being a real sell out is. In my opinion, she was honest, but tasteful. The worst thing she does is call Billy Corgan a cry-baby (although, be honest, we can all totally see it). & yes that’s worse than saying Lana Del Ray should “off herself” because that was a direct, sarcastic comment at Lana’s desire to die young.

Besides Lana says things like:

“I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested … My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.”

I think when you get to the core of it, they’d have similar beliefs, but entirely different ways of going about it. According to Kim, she’s one of those girls who have no idea what feminism is, the kind that hold up cards in Youtube videos saying “I’m not a feminist because I don’t hate men” or some idiotic thing like that. So I think Kim was easy on her. Especially since Kim seems to have a pretty strong stance in feminism. She’s sick of being asked “What’s it like being a girl in a band?” “What’s it like to be a woman in rock?” & I think all of us agree. For the reviewers saying this felt artificial, I completely disagree. I think she has a unique viewpoint because people have placed her in this “girl in a band” box all her life.

Or some are upset that Kim could have been just writing this out of anger at her ex husband Thurston Moore for cheating on her, & how crude is that, & how bitter is she? I really don’t agree because we only get a little information on that toward the end. Also because you have people complaining there isn’t enough about the break up & they felt she only put it in because editors told her to at least comment on it. But even if she was writing it from a bitter place, so what? Writers write about things that come from angry places all the time. Was it to publicly shame him? Probably not. Did it have that effect? Maybe for some women who have been in similar positions, which is a major point of writing a memoir, so readers can relate, but overall no. I don’t think it’s affecting his career in any major way & I definitely don’t think huge fans of his are suddenly going to penalize somebody’s music for their personal life, it’s just not that type of fanbase.

Instead, let me tell you what this memoir is. It’s a look inside her damn life. Wow, surprise. I think it’s well proportioned & incredibly interesting. She starts out in the recent (possibly at the time, present) on tour with Sonic Youth, post-Gordon/Moore-breakup. But that’s just there to frame the narrative & probably satisfy the SY fans. She quickly delves into her childhood. Her complicated relationship with her schizophrenic brother. LA life as a young girl. Even an interesting bit about how her father was a sociology academic who is largely responsible for the social grouping terms: “jock” or “geek” etc.

As she gets older we learn about her desire to enter the art scene. Manhattan pre-Bloomberg (a personal favorite setting of mine because I wasn’t alive to witness it). These really helped me see her more as an artist than a musician. Not that there’s anything wrong with musicians, but even she admits that there’s a certain way musicians talk & think that artists find sometimes hard to communicate with. I definitely think there’s truth to that. Plus I find her hatred of the term “performance art” interesting. I think entire commentaries can be written about some of her one line thoughts & philosophies.

Her experience with motherhood was one that caused mixed emotions for me as a reader. I think it would have been incredibly cool to be Kim Gordon’s daughter. Traveling on tours, playmates with Francis Bean (Kurt & Courtney’s daughter. There’s some interesting stuff on Kurt, the least of which is her participation in the Last Days movie. I mean, I love Michael Pitt, but that movie, ugh), instant exposure to good music. But there’s a huge thin layer of sadness overlying the whole experience because as a woman, the demands of parenting fall harder on her. This isn’t unique to rockstars (a name she calls herself with a lowercase ‘r’) plenty of women feel isolated in those initial years of parenting.

But Coco is grown up now, only a year younger than myself. She’s got a band of her own, something that obviously makes mama proud. Kim talks about how hard it’s been on her, the break up & publicity. & I think that’s where most of her pain seems to come from. Her issues with Thurston are separate, she insists, but it’s hard to separate when you’re their daughter. But even when she does comment on her relationship’s deterioration, it’s done with such honesty, it’s almost refreshing. Painful, if you’ve ever been in a similar situation, but grateful for her frankness.

I got this one as an audiobook & I never wanted to stop listening. Not only for the story, but just for her voice. Honestly, she could’ve been reading take-out menus & I would’ve listened. It’s the most soothing sound on the planet. (Gordon over Paltrow fans may hate me for this one but) Like somebody gave Gwyneth Paltrow some relaxation pills & made her speak in a library. It was a personal pillow & blanket for my ears on some cold bus & train rides to work each morning. I would use this shit as my own lullaby. It’s soft, but sharp at the edges.

Overall, an excellent memoir. A hell of a lot better than some other musician’s I’ve read.

The quotes are recorded as I heard them, so punctuation may differ from the book.

“Dan got a huge kick out of astrology’s dimestore-lowbrow-circusjoe vibe. A six-thousand art and science of observation doomed to end up, in the 21st centruy, on the slippery back pages of womens’ magazines.” <- not that I’m such a believer in this stuff, but I loved this line. Plus Taurus-Leo relationship? Talk about domineering complications…

“I couldn’t decide if I was a courageous person in real life or whether I could only sing on stage. In that way I haven’t changed much in thirty years at all. Now that I no longer live in NY I don’t know if I could ever move back. All that young girl idealism is someone else’s now. That city I know doesn’t exist anymore & it’s more alive in my head than it is when I’m there. After thirty years of playing in a band it sounds sort of stupid to say I’m not a musician, but for most of my life I’ve never seen myself as one.”

“People pay money to see others believe in themselves. Meaning, the higher the chance you can fall down in public, the more value the culture places in what you do.”

“The need for transcendence or maybe just for distraction. A day at the beach, a trip to the mountains. From hum-drum life, boredom, loneliness. Maybe thats all performance ever was, really. An unending kiss. That’s all we ever wanted to feel when we paid money to hear someone play. Did the 1990’s ever exist? Mainstream American music today is just as conservative as it was back in the 1980s. Experimental music has become a genre. Late night TV ads for music compilations mix & merge the 80s and 90s in a way that makes me nervous.”

Also, I’ve made a playlist for this one, but Spotify is being a real dick. They no longer give you the option to embed playlists. So I’m switching to 8tracks & will be transferring all my playlists there in the near future. If you do want to listen through the app or website, it’s available by clicking here.

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9 thoughts on “Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

  1. I love memoir’s but I have never been a big music person so all these people are clueless to me. I’ve heard of Lana Del Rey, and I agree with the italic statement you quoted by her. I’m very much like that, in the sense that I care more about what’s almost impossible than little petty things by sensitive people. Not to talk down feminism, however.

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    • Yes, I get what Lana means by it. Celebrities are becoming feminist ambassadors & it’s being used for publicity. If it’s about equality, then why attach a label & some “let’s take up this cause” attitude to it? There are other things going on in the world & all that. She wants to be viewed as a person, not just a female. So I agree with her feelings behind it. But I agree with Kim Gordon because it puts down the hundreds of women who came before her & really fought hard to give her that “freedom” she talks about. Kim is the type to proudly claim her feminism & I love that about her as well. As a woman, in the rock industry at the time (even now) she had to deal with a lot of bullshit. & I think women, no matter what their career, can relate. This is aside from all the unfair wage statistics & what not. So I didn’t like that other reviewers were trashing her for being “too feminist.” Overall, I think they both have a similar wish to be treated equally, but different ways to dealing with it.

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      • I agree totally. I feel like nowadays there’s a “how-to-be” kind of list for people who want to be a certain kind of supporter. (Feminist, Gay Rights, Anti-Racism, etc.) It’s really become a trend to support equal rights. I was always quiet about what I thought, and now it feels like you’re encouraged to say what you think, only to be shot down if it isn’t EXACTLY what they want you to say.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! So many of my friends who are gay or of a minority class & are also writers, get criticized if they don’t “write about their experience as a gay person” or as “a black woman.” Like they have some duty to it. Which I understand why people would want them to share their stories, but they should be allowed to do whatever they want, if they choose.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! People are craving diversity, but only want it to be written by a specific kind, and they are targeted if they do not. I find that to be ridiculous. I would like to see diversity too, but you’re going to get a shitty book if you force someone to write it.

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