October 11, 2019 Kim Gordon – No Home Record (Album Review)
Breaking into the music industry is hard. Staying in the conversation is even harder. That is why Kim Gordon’s first solo effort, No Home Record, is giving us something to talk about.
Splashing onto the scene in the ’80s with Sonic Youth, Gordon and her bandmates greased the wheels of the Grunge movement, unbridledly crossing genres and shattering songwriting formulas. Now, nearly four decades later, Gordon has stayed true to these roots while planting them in a modern context.
A mesmerizing exploration of the musical spectrum, No Home Record, due out Friday, October 11th, 2019 through Matador Records, plays to her strength of unrestrained songwriting, yielding a stylistic grab bag of songs that align with ease. A vocalist and bassist, her ability to complement radical melodies with inventive production and percussion shows why her staying power has fueled her extensive career.
This sound concoction is immediately evident in the album’s opener, “Sketch Artist.” Pairing heartbreaking violin string arrangements with her patented, unorthodox spoken vocals and modern electronic production a la Trent Reznor, this introduction beautifully sets the stage for what is to come. As No Home Record grows, each track varies in aggressive tonality and instrumentation, balanced by substantive lyrical prowess. Matching the wide-reaching nature of each arrangement are culturally profound statements, whose weight is nicely cut by tongue and cheek commentary.
Furthermore, the album proudly explores dark corners of music forgotten and illuminates more widely recognized ones in a different way. Tunes like “Paprika Pony” give us spellbinding tones that could sit comfortably with Billie Eilish or even a Rap remix, while tracks like “Murdered Out” showcase punishing riffs and dissonant harmonies, throwing us back to early Soundgarden or Alice in Chains.
That all in mind, not only does No Home Record take drastic turns from track to track, but there are plenty of twists within each song that keeps us guessing about what is next, and you are often wrong about the answer. “Cookie Butter” features repetitive percussion and a sustained melody intended to showcase its lyrics, which is pleasantly disrupted by rhythmic changes and screeching guitar lines. This is followed up by “Hungry Baby,” the album’s single (if there is such a thing), which smacks its steady, upbeat groove with interjections of raucous production and jarring percussion; a hallmark of Gordon’s music.
The only unsurprising facet of this album is its impressive nature. As an industry veteran, Gordon has worked with some of music’s heaviest hitters such as Tony Conrad, Ikue Mori, Julie Cafritz, and Stephen Malkmus. Before this solo effort, Gordon collaborated with Bill Nace in their combined effort Body/Head. Now, Gordon reveals sides we have not yet seen, a welcome undressing for existing fans and an unparalleled listen for newcomers.
From Mumford and Sons to Muse, artists are constantly trying to strike a balance between their musical identity and keeping up with an ever evolving – and revolving – landscape. From its opening chord progression to its last lingering note, No Home Record serves as a textbook example of how to do exactly that. This may be Gordon’s first solo album, but this is no rookie effort. Intrigue is drawn by fans of any genre, and is showcased through each track both in a vacuum and as a collective work. It is a vital journey of who Gordon is as a songwriter.
With such an expansive effort, the emerging common thread is that Gordon maintains her rebellious middle finger to norms in every aspect. That is why she can seemingly do almost anything and, thus, Cryptic Rock gives No Home Record 4 out of 5 stars.
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