Tag Archive: Kim Gordon


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“Bands are like psychotic families” – Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (A Girl In A Band)

GIRL IN A BAND – A MEMOIR by Kim Gordon (Day Street Books, 2015)

The somewhat reductive title is surely intended to be ironic since Kim Gordon’s autobiography is most certainly far than that of just another  ‘girl in a band’.

This is evidenced by the fact that the postscript defines her as an “artist, musician, producer, fashion designer, writer and actress”. Not only that but she is even a little dismissive of her musical prowess : “I’ve never thought of myself as a singer with a good voice or even as a musician”, she reveals.

Most of the time her desire to be a name in contemporary art world seems more important than being a rock star.

Despite this, Gordon is best known as founder member of post No Wave , pre-Grunge and super cool experimental rockers, Sonic Youth. This is a band who, she writes,“could only have come out of New York’s bohemian downtown art scene and the people in it”.

But anyone seeking a straight bio of the band will be disappointed by her non linear recollections. What dominates the plot is her relationship and marriage to Thurston Moore, the rise and fall of which parallels that of the band they founded together. The first chapter is entitled ‘The End’ and refers both to Sonic Youth’s final concert and the messy marital breakdown. Continue reading

WORD OF THE DAY : ‘INSOUCIANT’

kimINSOUCIANT  is an adjective of French origin which is variously used to define someone’s behaviour as  ‘carefree’, ‘unconcerned’, ‘light-hearted’, ‘nonchalant’ or ‘indifferent’.

Michael Azerrad, witing in the very excellent ‘Our Band Could Be Your Life’ described the voice of Sonic Youth‘s Kim Gordon as “a sort of insouciant holler, like a kid calling to her friends about something great she’d found but trying not to seem too excited about it”.

On the strength of this I’ve just added it to my Wordnik list of words describing singing voices.

NO AGE

NO AGE live (NOT at the Bronson!)

“I’m guessing this is more of a music salon than a teenage riot place” observes guitarist Randy Randall accurately.

Randall is 50% of LA’s Sub Pop phenomenon No Age. The other half is Dean Allen Spunt who sings and plays drums, neither one with any great aplomb but the fact that he does both together is pretty cool.

The band are playing the Bronson Club near Ravenna which despite being little more than a modest social club has an admirable track record of attracting a steady stream of rising stars and leftfield heroes from beyond the mainstream.

A ‘salon’ is a putting it a bit strongly, but the audiences do tend to be a polite, good mannered bunch and I suspect the No Agers are used to a rowdier reception.

They try gamely to create a rapport with genial chat and during the first number Randall makes a bold gesture to break the performer/punter divide by stepping among us while still playing his riffs. This might have succeeded better had there not occurred a Spinal Tap moment in which he fell flat on his face while re-mounting the stage.

Further attempts at genuine ice-breaking floundered in similar fashion. Realistically a Monday night audience numbering around 40, most of whom don’t speak Californian, is not one where there much hope of whipping up a party atmosphere.

Blunt and Randall impress as a likable duo nonetheless and sound like Psychocandy kids raised on a diet of drone-noise and punk rock. Imagine the music the offspring of Joey Ramone and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon might play and you’ll get the idea.

Their best songs – Boy Void, Everybody’s Down or Eraser to name just three – are spiky and snappy pieces with a refreshing absence of indie boy band pretensions.

It’s easier to imagine them busking on a street corner than playing bigger venues and this alone ensures that the DIY punk spirit has made it through to another generation.

CARLA BOZULICH CONCERT REVIEW

Carla Bozulich
Carla Bozulich

A cold Tuesday night in Emilia Romagna, Italy. Not quite freezing but chilly enough perhaps to discourage citizens from leaving the cosiness of their homes. Maybe for this, or possibly due to the woefully scant publicity, this intriguing triple bill at Teatro Rasi, Ravenna was a sparsely attended affair, under 100 brave souls venturing out. This made for a fairly flat atmosphere for these three bands to contend with. As none of them trouble much with between song banter, the songs are interspersed with pregnant pauses lending the performance a stilted feel. “Is anyone out there?”, asks Carla Bozulich’s bass player at one point with a hint of desperation. After our half hearted response she concludes “There’s two at least”! Carla Bozulich herself seems disconcerted by the fact that she can’t see we the punters; pitching her performance into an unquantifiable void was clearly troubling to her.

Bozulich’s set focuses on the songs of anguish and rage of last year’s atmospheric ‘Evangelista’ a radical shift from her critically acclaimed reinterpretaion of Willie Nelson’s ‘Red Haired Stranger’ that marked her solo debut in 2003. There’s nothing remotely country orientated about her new material, as you would expect with collaborators who include members of apocalyptic post-rockers like ‘A Silver Mt Zion’ & ‘Godspeed! You Black Emperor’.

Clad fetchingly in all black designer rags and 16 hole boots, Carla Bozulich paces the stage like a caged animal or else jumps frentically like a child throwing a tantrum (breaking a guitar string and almost losing her knickers in the process!). It’s an energetic display that craves for more than the polite applause than she achieves and in this regard I can appreciate her frustration. I get something of the same feeling when teaching unresponsive students in a language class – groups known in the trade as ‘the living dead’. The desire to stomp and curse to generate some (any!) reaction is strong.

Still, casting a critical eye on Carla Bozulich, it is also plain that she pushes a bit too hard at times. The subdued tension of a slow building track like ‘Pissing’ contains more menace and attitude than more primal explosions of feeling. What she achieves best, assisted by her highly accomplished backing band, is the ability to integrate noise dynamics with a controlled and poetically charged intensity. Atonal walls and wails of sound compliment her emploring voice perfectly. The two songs that close her set – ‘Baby,That’s The Creeps’ and ‘Evangelista I’ – are prime illustrations of the balance between stretches of abstract free-form with relatively structured content. Both these are both scary and original pieces brought to life on stage by the virtuoso playing of Thierry Amar (?) on double bass.

(A rough video of Evangelista can be viewed on my YouTube recording:

Accompanying Carla Bozulich’s headline slot are a somewhat incongruous foursome from California who trade under the name of Gowns. It’s not hard to see why there’s quite an Undeground buzz about their brand of psychedelic Velvets style rock meets drone. They are fronted by the attention grabbing figure of Erika Anderson whose length and legginess is emphasised by mini skirt and luminous white tights. Aside from her looks, she also demonstrated some impressive guitar abuse and cool Kim Gordon-esque vocals. In marked contrast, looking like an Indie-rock love child of Woody Allen, Ezra Buchla looks postively nerdy. His electro-noodling, violin droning and general vocal raging all sounded more mannered and less convincing and more self consciously arty. My favourite. however, was Jacob Felix Heule on drums. I was particularly taken by the energy of his playing and his neat trick of balancing extra cymbals on his kit to create a shimmering and sizzling backing.

It was a good night for drummers. The opening act had one Vittorio Demarin showing off the original art of playing violin (more drone!) with one hand and pounding out a tribal beat with the other. He makes up one third of FatherMurphy whose name sounds Irish, whose music sounds English but who are in fact Italian. Not that you’d guess their nationality from their performance. The songs are sung in a cockneyish drawl and singer Federico Zanatta takes nervous gulps of water in between songs rather than risk destroying the enigma with banalities like band name or song titles. The ghost of Syd Barrett looms large over Father Murphy who blend his quirky style with more expansive psychedelc tinged tunes.

All in all, a good night of new music but also proof that bands like these are more at home in the turmoil of sweatier and noisier venues than the stiffer formality of theatres.

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