What do you do after a stellar career in one of the world’s most influential alt-rock bands? Well, if you’re Kim Gordon, you become obsessed with Air BnBs, and even stage an exhibition in Ireland exploring the subject.
Of course, that’s not all Gordon’s been up to since Sonic Youth‘s disbandment quickly followed the collapse of her marriage to Thurston Moore in 2011. She’s written an acclaimed memoir (Girl In A Band), taken up an acting career, released two albums with Bill Nace under the name Body/Head, and collaborated with artists such as Kurt Vile and Joan As Police Woman.
Still, it comes as a bit of a shock that No Home Record is Gordon’s first ever solo record, given her stellar status. It’s a record that bounces between her more accessible side, while never losing touch with that more experimental edge that was displayed in Body/Head. As the title suggests, it’s an album with a restless, uneasy atmosphere to it.
So, one minute there’s the bluesey rock of Air BnB with a glorious, shout-along chorus of “Airbnb, gonna set me free!”, the next the clattering beats and half-spoken vocals on Cookie Butter. Gordon’s equally at home with the swaggering rockabilly of Hungry Baby as she is with the spooky atmospherics of Paprika Pony.
Murdered Out, which was released as a single back in 2016, makes a re-appearance on the album, and still sounds as abrasive and exciting as it did back then: full of feedback soaked guitar as Gordon sings of “black matte paint” about the trend of spray-painting over corporate signs on cars.
Lyrically, Gordon’s style is somewhere between cryptic and completely obtuse. Opening track Sketch Artist is one of the standout tracks, opening with some groaning strings as Gordon sings of wind chime strikes and death stares. Paprika Pony seems almost like a stream of consciousness, with Gordon muttering lines like “I write back for some unending sound chords”. The meaning of all this is unclear, but the soundscapes that her and producer Justin Raisen have created are never less than compelling.
Comparisons to her former band may be lazy, but also unavoidable. For the most part, No Home Record is a quieter, more languid affair than Sonic Youth, although the rollicking roar of Air BnB recalls the glory days of Dirty, as does the rollicking sway of Hungry Baby. Given the acrimonious nature of her break-up with Moore, it’s impossible not to think of Earthquake as some sort of kiss-off, with lyrics like “you want me to see you – are you twelve?”
No Home Record is the sort of record that will satisfy both Sonic Youth fans wanting a shot of nostalgia, and those who wish to see Gordon moving forward. Even during the times where her restless experimentation threatens to become a bit self-indulgent, you’re never far away from a blast of feedback to grab your attention again. It all adds up to a welcome return for one of rock music’s true modern icons.