Girl In A Band – Kim Gordon: Book Review
To feel empathy for someone you’ve only read about is probably not going to be understood by other people. The person in this rich, often harsh look at life and the upsides and downsides of being in a successful band is one you can feel for wholeheartedly. Kim Gordon is the musician who spills all in her compelling memoir Girl In A Band. At moments in this book, the heart tightens and the fists clench, as the subject matter puts the reader into a whirlwind of emotions. It’s a sombre reflection of a girl lost in her own world, a world beaten down by personal strife and bitter conflicts.
Kim Gordon, as many people know, co fronted one the most pivotal and influential bands in Sonic Youth, an act which brought together so many music crusaders who fell deeply in love with the triggering music, the type of music which was messy, distorted, raw, revealing, but monumental to the punk movement and the rock sector. And Gordon became a symbol of strength, and through all her personal heartache, gave her all to the cause.
The book isn’t all about the music. It chronicles the breakup of the two founding members of Sonic Youth, Gordon and Thurston Moore. This breakup was a bad one, and it was talked about religiously long after the impact. Although these two decisive musicians broke up, they did make some of the most alluring rock music with band members Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley.
Girl In A Band starts off at the end of Sonic Youth’s last ever tour in a soaked Sao Paulo. This is end for the tour and a marriage of 27 years. And Gordon describes freely the trials and tribulations attached to her marriage, the fights, the battles, the rare upsides and the more frequent downsides. It could be described as a harrowing read at times, as it all leaks out like mascara, and Gordon does not hold back.
Gordon grew up in Rochester, NY, but moved to Los Angeles with dysfunctional parents. She often recalls in her book the relationship with her Brother Keller, who she said shaped her as a person. She delves into her emotions freely and lets us know that she didn’t have it easy as a child. This made her strive to make music and become the musician that helped create albums such as EVOL and Sister. These records were monumental to the rock community and made Gordan a household name.
After a few hundred pages, Gordon begins to talk about the band. She conveys through professional, well crafted writing the impact of her musical brain and the unconventional beauty of these crucial albums and songs. She also details her thoughts on Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. She liked Kurt, but hated Courtney. These little anecdotes make the book interesting, and keep the reader hooked.
After that, she describes her feelings on Moore. The man who she stuck by, who she doted on before the infamous breakup. She suspects he had an affair too. This makes for engrossing reading, even though it is drawn from pain.
Girl In A Band is a book not only detailing the effect of a momentous rock band, but it often makes the reader think about life. Gordon writes in a revealing manner, not holding back or papering over the cracks. At times in this book, she lets slip; she declares war. It is a fundamental rock memoir but also an insightful piece of communication wrapped up in blood-soaked bandages.
And Sonic Youth broke up in 2011 and left a hole in the rock community. Gordon cites in the book the pain she felt when the band disbanded. Being in that band was, of course, a focal part, a vital time in her life.
As for a memoir, some work and some do not. This one does because it reveals so much more about the artist and the person.