Prompted by the Sonic Youth legend's fear of cultural homogeny, this is an accessible guitar record that surprises despite its author’s truly enormous legacy
Over the last few years, Kim Gordon has developed an unlikely obsession: Airbnb interiors. Burying herself in a heap of scatter-cushions emblazoned with cheery slogans and stencil-cut skyline canvases, the former Sonic Youth member has even staged an exhibition – She Bites Her Tender Mind, at IMMA in Dublin – exploring the subject.
“People are looking at this utopian weekend getaway as trying on a different lifestyle,” she told The New York Times. “It appeals to a fantasy. It’s like a clean slate.” In a few clicks possible to set up a residence in someone else’s house plant-filled Scandi loft or New York apartment with a clunky metal fire escape; buying a slice of someone else’s life has become a commodity.
It’s an idea at the centre of Gordon’s first solo record, ‘No Home Record’, which is in some ways the post-punk icon’s own fresh start. Four years ago, she published her memoir, Girl In A Band (written, as it happens, from the escape of yet another pristine Airbnb). The book pulled no punches when it came to addressing her marriage and split from fellow Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore. She also spoke at length about her childhood on the East Coast. She’s relocated from New York to LA; much of ‘No Home Record’ is concerned with a strange, unplaceable strain of alienation. Accordingly, the record borrows its name from Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, with which the filmmaker documented some of her last conversations with her mother in various homes.
Uneasy and scratchy, and powered by hefty beats from producer Justin Raisen, ‘No Home Record’ is a restless listen. ‘Hungry Baby’ is a slab of jitterbugging rock ‘n’ roll; ‘Don’t Play It’ is an echoing tirade addressed to “golden vanity” and personal brands. “You can pee in the ocean,” Gordon deadpans, poking fun at an age where anything can be bought instantly – even contactless loos: “It’s free.”
Four decades since the formation of Sonic Youth, ‘No Home Record’ harks back to Kim Gordon’s original set-up in the 1980s – back then, her songs were collages, with lyrics crudely snipped out of magazine adverts. Her she pastes images of “Superhosted” loft apartments filled with Andy Warhol prints next to those of an endless procession of minimal black-fronted coffee shops. This record is filled with identikit retreats: plant-filled yoga studios and well-crafted hashtags, all ripe for the ‘Gram.
A tense, abrasive work, ‘No Home Record’ injects a hint poppier thrust into Gordon’s no-wave experimentations with her other project, Body/Head (a point of difference most obvious on the juddering ‘Sketch Artist’. Remarkably her first solo album, this is a record that surprises, despite its author’s truly enormous legacy.
Release date: October 11
Record label: Matador Records