Book review: highs of lows of being in Sonic Youth, by Kim Gordon
Girl in a Band
by Kim Gordon
Dey Street Books
As frontwoman for influential indie band Sonic Youth for three decades, Kim Gordon had a ringside seat as experimental music left New York's grimy clubs and went mainstream with the help of MTV and Lollapalooza in the 1980s and '90s.
She separated from band co-founder Thurston Moore after 27 years - the duo seemed to have the perfect rock-star marriage until it unravelled in 2011, devastating fans. In her memoir, the seemingly unflappable Gordon, known for her cool gaze and electric onstage presence, details how the relationship became strained and the pain she felt as Moore started an affair with another woman.
"It's hard to write a love story with a broken heart," Gordon says about her early days in New York.
Gordon grew up in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Hong Kong as her father took various academic jobs, along with a magnetic older brother she idolised, who was later diagnosed as schizophrenic. Arriving in New York in 1980 after art school, Gordon quickly became immersed in the art world and punk scene.
She fell in love with Moore soon after and they started Sonic Youth, touring the country and logging time on college radio stations. Gordon writes of the band's growing success with a dryly cerebral eye, recounting with exasperation how the only question British reporters asked her during an early tour was: "What's it like to be a girl in a band?"
She kept touring and making videos both before and after Coco, her daughter with Moore, was born in 1994. She also kept up active side projects as a visual artist, creating the X-Girl clothing label and taking small roles in movies, including Gus Van Sant's Last Days and Olivier Assayas' Boarding Gate.
Gordon details the kinship she felt with Kurt Cobain before his suicide in 1994. But she labels Courtney Love as manipulative.
The most vivid scenes that Gordon paints are the thrills in the '80s, when Sonic Youth came together, and the '90s, when experimental bands suddenly were getting airplay on MTV.