Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein has just released the artwork for her forthcoming memoir. On a stark black page sits a monochrome photo of the musician, comedian and all-round excellent human being. The bold yet simple shot sees her holding a microphone in one hand and raising the other one triumphantly. Lost in performance, she’s pictured singing defiantly under the book’s plain yet powerful title ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’. They say don’t judge a book by its cover but fuck the old adage: I’m branding it one of the books of the year and it’s not even being published until October.
The past few years have marked a watershed for rock’n’roll biographies written by women. Patti Smith’s fantastic ‘Just Kids’ – about her life in seedy 1960s New York – was heralded as a masterpiece by critics and fans alike, and she’s just announced that she’s penning a sequel. Then along came Viv Albertine of The Slits’ witty, charming ‘Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys’ which was named NME’s Book of the Year, and Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art Of Asking’, which details her raising money to fund her creativity, resulting in the world’s most successful Kickstarter campaign. Most recently we’ve seen Kim Gordon’s emotive ‘Girl In A Band’, which painstakingly details her time in Sonic Youth, her marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore and involvement in the modern art scene.
Sure, the books all shared a certain passion and vivid eye for detail, but what really set them apart was the fact that they threw a spotlight on female experience in a field that has historically subjugated – or at the very least brushed aside – women’s involvement. As great a read as it is, it’s no surprise that before these books the most lauded rock autobiography by a woman was Pamela Des Barres’ ‘I’m With The Band’, the tale of a self-styled ‘groupie’ and her adventures in the macho world of classic rock.
Smith, Albertine and Gordon’s books all offered a fresh angle on women’s involvement in a genre they have long been accused of simply being bystanders of. A statement from Brownstein’s publishers, Penguin, suggests her autobiography will do much the same: “Accessibly raw, honest and heartfelt, this book captures the experience of being a young woman, a born performer and an outsider, and ultimately finding one’s true calling through hard work, courage and the intoxicating power of rock’n’roll.”
The fact that women still experience misogyny in music is undeniable. Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry has discussed the regular rape threats she receives online, while Florence Welch has spoken out about being sexually assaulted while crowdsurfing. While acts like this shouldn’t define women’s experience of rock, neither should it be swept under the carpet. Although female rock biographies aren’t (and clearly shouldn’t be) bollockings of men who’ve behaved like dicks to them, the mere fact that discrimination is something female musicians have to deal with on a daily basis still informs their actions – from the songs they write to the way that they tour and the relationships they have. So roll on Carrie Brownstein’s book – and many more like it.