Willie Reviews Kim Gordon’s “No Home Record”

Willie Reviews Kim Gordon’s “No Home Record”

 

You could pursue meditation and seek a clear mind, or else you could just do what the rest of us do and let Kim Gordon narrate your inner monologue. Things make sense that way. Her first solo album, No Home Record, is out now. Here’s RPM’s review:

I would like to think that the moment Kim Gordon stepped into her first Air BnB, she turned to nobody in particular and said, “American idea.” That line arrives on the appropriately named “Air BnB” on No Home Record, and it reminds us why she’s such an intriguing, trustworthy culture critic. She plainly determines a point of misery, then lingers on it until she’s brought us into its unique awfulness. But the extra turn this album takes is that it won’t concede any of that catastrophic decay, though it suggests it in every way. You won’t find long, experimental tracks probing the possibilities of form. Most everything is tightly measured and told with a clear head. Gordon and her collaborators take on a tone that appears almost immune to the very real pandemonium communicated through their words and music.

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In her speak-singing poetry of word association, Gordon partly shares a mind with the surrealists. Her overarching critiques—consumerism, misogyny, even objectivity—are no secret, but the way she voices them is more like a series of dreamlike puzzle pieces. This strategy is built on the belief that senseless issues cannot be treated with sensical answers. That would cheapen the reality of it. So, she bites around the edges. On “Sketch Artist,” she says “You’re a mystery / like a horse.” And on “Get Yr Life Back,” she follows the line “Shopping off a cliff” with “Your breath in my eye.”The ear smooths over these leaps to a degree, but they will always give more agility and more depth than a straight critique. When she says “there are no truths anymore,” she sounds vaguely pleased—an “ah, finally” kind of thing. And this is the part of her poetry that works best. She remains unwilling to abandon the view that none of it can be interpreted. The death of her work would be close reading it into nothingness.

Still, her words privilege the roundness and feel of sound. As she deals with contemporary material, she remains aloof in her cool, slithering delivery, but the images are short and compact. Her most extreme version of this comes on “Cookie Butter,” a track made almost entirely out of “I” statements. She chooses a word and lets its associations ring out silently like a harmonic sequence. She says “I buy / I drive / I walk / I run” and cuts herself off at every turn. The ephemeral image of each phrase stays fresh until the next knocks it out. The refrain “black matte spray” on “Murdered Out” resounds with thumping echoes. She evokes tinted and blacked-out cars with a tone that matches their sleek disguise.

Kim Gordon, photo by Natalia Mantini

What Gordon and producer Justin Raisen do with the instrumentals on these tracks is all over the place, genre-wise. They use cyclical, abrasive loops that mimic the there-but-not-there quality of Gordon’s vocals. The shells of the songs are, for the most part, notatable and marked by rhythm. But underneath, a great unrest infects them. The wavering sample (horns, maybe?) that begins the first track gets augmented by a biting beat, then smoothed over by a delicate guitar break. This responsiveness is everywhere, and as Gordon reacts, the clean rhythms behind her voice seem to respond. “Paprika Pony” uses a hip hop beat, but the more I listen to the whole album, the more all the tracks start to feel influenced by hip hop. If Gordon shifted her delivery, you could easily call this a hip hop album.

The moments of catharsis that remain untempered are the ones that sound more classically Kim Gordon. “Earthquake” recalls the loose instrumental questioning throughout a song like Sonic Youth’s “The Diamond Sea.” With the absence of a steady metronome, Gordon actually does sink into uncertainty. “Earthquake” invites us in, but at the same time cautions against vulnerability for the sake of trust. That’s because the album ends with the next track, “Get Yr Life Back.” It’s an unflinching, angry beast of a song that promises nothing more because it can’t. No Home Record brings you down with it, but it’s hard to complain.

Score: Finding out that everyone else listens to music backwards.

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