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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, February 2015 - Kim Gordon: Artist, musician, and trail blazer for women of the post-punk generation. She is among the rare breed of artists who have made a mark on music and on popular culture...and yet she is not someone I'd consider a household name. Sonic Youth, her band, was always about the sound...in all it's wonderful dissonance - the personalities were secondary. In Girl in a Band, Kim gets personal: talking about the break-up of her marriage and her band when she and Thurston Moore split after 27-years together, and about her relationship with her daughter. It's a panoramic and atmospheric look at her life as opposed to a deep look into her psyche. I can't wait to hear her narrate this book, and I can't wait to hear what she comes up with next! —Tricia, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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.

Evocative and edgy, filled with the sights and sounds of a changing world and a transformative life, Girl in a Band is the fascinating chronicle of a remarkable journey and an extraordinary artist.

©2015 Kim Gordon (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Deadpan but fascinating

If you don't already love Kim Gordon's deadpan voice from her music projects the performance of this text might surprise you. I found her energy and life story captivating - less in terms of her time with Sonic Youth and more because of her coincidental encounters with cultural figures like Larry Gagosian and Danny Elfman - one of whom she dated apparently? - and her home life and work as an artist. The book did cause me to do an early 90s deep dive into Sonic Youth, X Girl, Mike Mills, and bands I listened to at the time like Pavement. I will listen to this book again.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jill
  • Knoxville, TN, United States
  • 04-17-15

Semi-tragic

Exciting but I was frequently filled with a an unusual sadness. Very revealing and honest. I don't how much of the sadness comes from the voice. And how much from the story.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Insight into a life but not epiphanic

Interesting musings on LA, New York, small town Massachusetts and the meanderings of a creative soul. A subjective glimpse into punk rock, and an experimental approach to music and art from the less-often heard perspective of a woman. Certainly interesting enough to keep one's attention but not master storytelling at work. I enjoyed listening to Kim's unique voice (I mean the actual sound of her voice which may not actually appeal to everyone.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Memory lane guided by Kim Gordon!!

I know this book is about Kim Gordon's life but it also helped me relive many moments of my own life. Sonic youth is my all time favorite band and Kim has been a female inspiration to me to be rebellious of gender stereotypes I have faced. Listening to her softer side made me remember my own fragility, I really enjoyed her mellow voice describing horrors she has been through, the contrast haunted me throughout the day, even when I wasn't listening to the book.

Using you tube, I would look up events she mentioned and this enriched my listening experience greatly, making it almost interactive. Looking at photos of myself at various shows throughout the nineties brought it all home.

If you lived for music in the nineties, this is a must read.

And the writing is quite good, although the sectioning style makes following the linearity of the bio a bit difficult at times. If you don't get stuck on that, you will enjoy her way with words. Well done Kim!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Parkland, FL
  • 03-05-15

Art for art's sake

Incredible insight into one of the leading forces in the art and music scene. She's a fascinating artist and human.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Seems like...

We now know more about the people Kim Gordon surrounded herself with than we do Kim. I understand that it has to be hard to bare your soul to the masses but I'm left feeling like I only got the nickel tour.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book!

I loved hearing her story of growing up and how she developed her artistic life. Very honest, real and inspiring.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 02-17-16

Sometimes Powerful, Too Often Still Dissonant

Any additional comments?

I am a Sonic Youth fan only rarely. I have a couple CDs of the band, and I cycle back to checking out their music every year or two, but most of the time I can rarely get past the dissonance. It will sound like noise to me, and I’ll just get bewildered or frustrated. But then, every so often, their whole sound will come together for me. I’ll be listening, and it will suddenly just make sense. I’ll hear it all come together, and I’ll think “This band rocks.” (For what it’s worth, I also have that experience, more intensely, with P.J. Harvey.)

I also had a good experience reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids a few months ago, and I figured Kim Gordon’s memoir might be strong in the same vein. After all, they are both women rockers, who have gone through impressive careers without compromising. Their male counterparts are guys like Lou Reed or Alex Chilton and, like guitar-slinging Ginger Rogers, they’ve done the same things only “backwards in high heels” and managed to raise children at the same time. Both also began as visual artists before they moved into music, and they’ve earned their respect the hard way.

It probably isn’t fair to compare this to Just Kids, but I can’t help it. And the comparison doesn’t do any favors to Girl in a Band. The opening chapter is full of promise. Gordon goes through Sonic Youth’s final performance (in Sao Paolo at a huge outdoor concert) giving sometimes a gesture for gesture recap as she fills us in on the painful backdrop of her breakup with Thurston Moore. In the ways that the best of this kind of work can do, her description made me hungry to see the concert (it’s on Youtube – which she tells us) and I did just that, appreciating it more after her story than I could have before.

But after that, the chapters get pointed and short. The first half of the book recounts Gordon’s childhood and adolescence. Parts of it are striking – she gives thoughtful descriptions of an L.A. that’s now buried, and she writes tersely and effectively about the pain of growing up with a brother developing profound mental health disorders.

Most of the second half talks about her early days in the New York scene. While this ought to be the heart of the book, it’s too often full of references that feel unexplained. It means something to me, for instance, when she talks of meeting Mike Watt from the Minutemen, but there are dozens more casual meetings that seem to have significance that she doesn’t explore. At its worst – which isn’t that often – it can feel like a laundry list of cool people who’ve known her and want to know her. At its best, (too briefly) it talks about how she and Moore came together to become a family in the midst of the band.

And then a final chunk of the book circles back to the breakup framed at the start. These 3-4 short chapters feel as if a publisher demanded them. They’re tawdry and unpleasant; I imagine them as written for Moore, as her working to sound neutral and yet hoping he’ll see the truth in the account and feel all the worse for it. Fortunately, the best part of the book comes next, a short, thoughtful meditation on what the end of the Sonic Youth/noise scene meant and how it’s related to the rise of an internet culture of expectations. Without overplaying her band’s contributions, she rises to some compelling social criticism. But she gets there very late and stays there only briefly.

The ultimate trouble here is that Just Kids had a core story to its memoir: the relationship between Smith and the artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Everything else in Smith’s experience fell into the background. Girl in a Band never settles on a set agenda. It isn’t quite an autobiography, nor should it be. It isn’t quite a memoir of life in the 1980s/1990s cutting edge music scene, though it’s implicitly relevant because of Gordon’s time there. And it isn’t quite an anatomy of painful and public breakup because, in the end, Gordon’s persona is to stay hidden, to be the “girl in the band” who wears a kind of impervious mask. Maybe her publishers wanted that book and maybe she tried to give it to them, but her heart is clearly elsewhere.

So, I’d sum up by saying that, like the music of Sonic Youth, this book is largely dissonant. Every so often, some thread of it emerges and becomes deeply compelling, the insights of someone who’s been through a lifetime of artistic self-reflection and come out wiser. Too often, though, its separate threads blur together, and it’s hard to find the tune underneath the noise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kim
  • Renton, WA, United States
  • 03-24-15

Easy listen

Having a book narrated by the author isn't always a good thing. However, Kim's reading was easy to listen to and came across very honest. I want a huge Sonic Youth fan, but recognize that she played an important (if unwitting) part in the feminist movement... Very much enjoyed her perspective.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Awesome !

If you are a fan of a sonic youth or alternative music in general, this book is fantastic. The audio version made it more personable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful