Tag Archive: Sonic Youth


9e1294e6fcdbbaf68ecdf171bd269f81651a92e2“Kill yr idols” advocated Sonic Youth back in the day, an extreme strategy that is not actually an invitation to murder but a warning against putting faith in heroes. Bob Dylan meant something similar when he sang (in Subterranean Homesick Blues) “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters”.

Be your own person is the implicit message. While it’s ok to admire and respect others, it’s always worth remembering that people have a nasty habit of letting you down. Keeping a healthy sense of detachment avoids being disillusioned. Far safer to set your own goals, maintain your own standards and generally search for the hero inside yourself.

Devendra Banhart is a case in point. I was a huge fan of his when he burst upon the scene under the wing of head Swan Michael Gira. 2004’s Rejoicing In The Hands remains one of my all time favorite albums and I had the good fortune to see him play songs from this and its immediate follow ups – Nino Rojo and Cripple Crow. For a while he could do no wrong in my eyes. His charm, wit and good looks added to his appeal. In short , though not quite an idol , he used to be a hero. Continue reading

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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

NEIL YOUNG WAGES PEACE

WAGING HEAVY PEACE by Neil Young (Penguin Books, 2012)

Be honest, you didn’t really expect this to be a straightforward autobiography, did you?

Neil Young has always done things his own way and having just turned 68, you’d hardly expect him to change a habit of a lifetime now.

I don’t think you could call him truly avant-garde but his singular quality definitely sets him apart from his peers. His style is that of a loner and a hard task master, but this is what makes him such a unique artist.

He writes as he sings, with a disarming simplicity and openness. He continually admits his own limitations and recognises his idiosyncratic approach: “There is a lot to cover and I have never done this before. Also, I am not interested in form for form’s sake”.

By rights, there should be a footnote to say that no editor has interfered with any aspect of this book. The publishers appear to have accepted the finished work on trust, warts and all. “Today, my past is a huge thing”, Young states with a vagueness you quickly become accustomed to. Some chapters have titles while, for no obvious reason, others don’t and you will look in vain for any coherent narrative thread. 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.

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