Girls & Bands

I was not convinced I should read Kim Gordon’s memoir. Although I do like Sonic Youth, it was never a band that fascinated me. I respected them a lot, and I bought some of their records, but I was more into Nirvana at the time, it was more pop, more visceral and spoke to me more. I always thought Sonic Youth was a bit too artsy.
Therefore, Kim Gordon was not my reference as THE woman in a band. She looked too strong, and too confident, there was something harsh about her. Maybe she was too American, too girlie. Maybe I was more into girls playing guitar and I despised bass. Maybe she was not enough of a leader. I never really thought about it, but she was not my type and I never identified with her.

When Kim and Thurston’s marriage exploded, and Sonic Youth called it a day, I felt weird. It was rather unexpected. It’s true that those two looked like a myth, it was the perfect rock and roll couple and everyone thought they couldn’t ever separate. They had been through so much already, they were in a rock band together! That had to be the biggest test ever for a relationship! But they failed, after so many years, and like most couples do, in the most pathetic way. There is no exception for rockstars, obviously. Everybody goes by the same rules.
I remember the official statement the band made for the press, it was simple, clear, and straightforward. There was no crazy media fuss about it, which I thought was elegant.
I was not a Sonic Youth fan, but those two meant something to me, and I grew up with them. Sadly, I realized how important they were to me when they separated.

‘Girl in a Band’ sounded like a good hook.
I, too, am a girl in a band after all. And whether Kim Gordon is my type or not, she is so damn cool. So I bought the book.

Autobiographies or memoirs are always interesting when you are in the music world yourself, because most of the artists now in their late 50s or 60s or even older have had unusual lives. My generation is much more formatted and trajectories often look the same. But back in the days, there were real musical movements and all those people were, if not pioneers themselves, part of something huge, something that changed the society, the music, the fashion, the way of life, and the business too. And grunge was probably the last real musical movement along with britpop. I was a teenager when it happened, I remember it all, I was watching MTV, and those bands were everywhere; on television, on the radio, on the mixtapes I made for my friends and we exchanged at school, and in my imagination too. I wanted to be like those guys. I wanted to be a girl in a band.

Kim Gordon’s book looks like an essay to me. It’s extremely insightful. As I was reading along I took a bunch of notes. She reflects about being a woman in general, and in this band in particular, about relationships, in the band, outside the band, in the business, in art, in love, in the family. It’s not a boring collection of chronological events summarizing her life. Of course, it made a lot of sense to me. Some questions I also have, some issues are simply identical because I am a woman, surrounded by guys, and expectations are somehow similar.

I was convinced Kim was a pure New Yorker, but although she was born in Rochester, NY, she was raised in California. The sunny glamorous halo surrounding her probably comes from there. But her intellectual journey really took off in New York around the no-wave movement.
What I really found fascinating is that she never really describes her job as a songwriter’s duty. It’s not about the songs, or the melodies, but mostly about the performance and the idea. For her, music, at least in the beginning, seemed to have been an artistic medium like any other. Making sound was as important as creating pictures, filming, painting, dancing or performing in any way.
It’s definitely not how I came to music, I came to music by the melody, and how it obsessed me, and by rhythmic patterns and how they appealed to me physically. It was not intellectual, at first, but totally instinctive and sensitive.
Although Kim appears as an overly sensitive person, she seemed to have found a shelter in the intellectual aspect of art. When you hide behind an idea, everything seems much easier, because that idea structures what you are doing as much as it shapes your being. It’s fully reassuring. Kim wanted to create, and it was natural for her to move into the art world. Although performing was vital for her, she doesn’t speak precisely about writing and the band’s workflow. Some songs are highlighted, and she tells the story about specific lyrics but you really understand, that despite such a raw and primitive sound, Sonic Youth’s music was guided by a highly sophisticated ambition.

Gordon also speaks as a woman, a wife and a mother, and depicts herself as insecure and fragile. She is not indecent in any way, but still manages to share a lot about herself. It’s a strong book and you sometimes feel she probably had written more than what was kept in the final version. All extracts about Kurt Cobain are amazing, their affinity was moving and it didn’t surprise me. There is something solid about her, probably linked to her social background, that makes her so wonderfully normal.
I believe one needs to have this sort of solidity to succeed in art; normal is necessary. The strength and longevity comes from that. Normal doesn’t mean boring, it’s just a structure. It means you know where you come from, and where you’re heading at, and it supposes you are not building things up randomly. It’s like a grid you can always refer to. It doesn’t protect you from everything, but I think it helps keeping you alive in a world that constantly requires you to open up, and puts a lot of pressure on you.
Kim Gordon did just that. She wasn’t really aware of herself as a rockstar. In the book you understand she somehow figured out what she represented for the kids, but it was never meaningful to her. She always had her feet on the ground. Maybe her marriage didn’t survive that normality, but I tend to believe she did, as a woman. Her career and life looks very consistent to me. She was never a girl in a brand.

Anyway, this book a must-read and Kim Gordon is obviously a smart woman. He reflections are genuinely openhearted and inspiring. It was stimulating in many ways. It’s not a rockstar’s ego-centered autobiography, but a woman’s collection of thoughts and memories. And a very valuable one.


La carte est plus intéressante que le territoire

Je n’avais pas du tout l’intention de lire ce roman. Je suis toujours méfiante lorsque la presse me présente un auteur sur un plateau. Entre les scandales vaseux (essentiellement entretenus par des critiques blasés), Iggy Pop et sa bande de copains-lettreux cocaïnomanes, j’ai toujours eu du mal à suivre. Plutôt que d’essayer, j’ai preferé me dire que cela ne devait certainement pas en valoir la peine.

J’avais pourtant lu et aimé L’extension du domaine de la lutte à sa sortie en 1994, et croisé des poèmes qui étaient très bons.
Et puis Houellebecq avait un petit côté underground-freak sympa, à l’image de ce disque sorti chez Tricatel où il scandait sa poésie sur un fond musical d’As Dragon. C’était moche, mais j’y avais trouvé un certain sens. La poésie semble affreusement sans vie lorsqu’elle est imprimée, il était bon de l’entendre. Houellebecq semblait totalement emberlificoté dans l’idée que le XXe siècle allait forcément se tranformer en XXIe siècle. C’était plaisant, mais pas vraiment suffisant.

J’ai finalement craqué lors d’une mes énièmes errances dans l’univers parfaitement anonyme de la Fnac et j’ai acheté La Carte et le Territoire. Pendant de longues semaines le livre trônait sur une de mes enceintes, et je lui jetais des regards peu aimables, ne me décidant pas à en commencer la lecture. C’est finalement un sms du sur mon iPhone m’annonçant qu’on lui avait decerné le prix Goncourt qui me poussa à la lecture.
La pire raison, en somme, et tout ce contre quoi je luttais.

“Au moment où ils approchaient de l’échangeur de Melun-Centre, il comprit qu’il avait vécu, pendant cette semaine, une parenthèse paisible.”
Michel Houellebecq, La carte et le territoire.
C’est en lisant cette phrase, page 61 de l’édition Flammarion, que j’ai compris que Houellebecq n’était pas un fantôme et qu’on pourrait très certainement étudier son oeuvre dans les cours de littérature : la description chirurgicalo-glauque contrebalancée par l’expression un peu vide mais juste du sentiment. J’ai pensé à Jean-Jacques Rousseau, et à ses tics d’écriture, lorsque par exemple dans ses sublimes Confessions, il se décrit astucieusement en juxtaposant deux adjectifs à connotations négative, suivis de trois adjectifs a connotation positive : “Je me suis montré tel que je fus, méprisable et vil quand je l’ai été, bon, généreux, sublime, quand je l’ai été”. Je remarque rarement ces choses-là, certainement parce qu’il y a peu d’écritures qui sont aussi emplies de leur auteur. Et j’aime ça follement : quand l’art transpire l’artiste, quand il n’y a aucune confusion possible, quand on peut saisir le caractère et qu’il est plein de défauts.

La Carte est le Territoire est un roman et un document où l’écrivain met en scène sa propre mort, la France de 2010, le quotidien policier et le monde étrange de l’art contemporain. Mais pas que.
J’ai trouvé le propos global sur l’art et l’artiste et sur ses problématiques d’une justesse effroyable. Sans doute parce que Michel Houellebecq parvient à trouver au travers de ses trois personnages principaux un prisme parfait qui permet une lecture metaphysique de la vie et du monde. A eux trois, ils sont des calques, et le roman devient total lorsque les trois calques se superposent.
Je me demande comment les journalistes sont parvenus à écrire sur ce livre, à en faire une critique. C’est un livre qui se suffit à lui-même. Il est totalement tourné sur lui-même, sur son auteur, sur ses questionnements et fabrique un cercle parfait dont le lecteur (et sans doute l’auteur) n’est libéré qu’au point final. La mise en abyme est idyllique et irréprochable mais jamais ne se mort la queue.

Michel a assurément les pieds dans son époque et, assagi, il a troqué le cynisme contre l’ironie. Tant mieux, car le cynisme est un truc d’artiste paresseux.

La fiction sera toujours plus belle que la réalité, et c’est bon de s’en convaincre une énième fois.

Lisez ce livre, nom de Dieu.

Le divan de Bidibule

Bidibule m’a très courtoisement  invité sur son canapé pour une interview.
Il est question de mille choses et pour une fois je n’ai pas été avare de paroles.
C’est à lire et à commenter par ici :
Je vous encourage par la même occasion à aller redécouvrir son univers délicieux qui, décidément, ne prend pas une ride.