Kim Gordon No Home Record Matador
Kim Gordon’s first ever solo album is an exercise in her very specific sort of irony. As fidgety and deadpan as its title suggests, No Home Record is politically and personally loaded, but also as silly and self-aware as you’d expect from a musician so seasoned in cutting her targets – ego, masculinity, consumerism, to name a few – down to size.
Thirty years ago, on Sonic Youth’s The Sprawl, Gordon sang, “I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell.” On new single Airbnb, it sounds like she’s found the answer in a fake-friendly late-capitalist machine that prices people out of their own homes. Strained, yelped lyrics skim over generic home furnishings with the cool eye of a bored real estate agent, a hollow portrait of society made from exposed brick and Andy Warhol prints. “Bubble-wrap me” she breathes, luxuriating for a second in obnoxious, vacant signifiers of wealth. The drum machine rattles so furiously it’s like she’s peppering the walls with bullets. Gordon has always been willing to skewer herself on her own jokes, and in the song’s accompanying video she painstakingly describes what their chosen Airbnb would have looked like, had they had the budget to rent it for the shoot: glassy, shiny, new. She’d also have worn a red leather cape, naturally.
Other tracks are far more cryptic. Opener Sketch Artist writhes and jolts, snapping aggressively between sweeping, industrial crescendos and a delicate, thumbed melody. In the first 30 seconds there’s a left turn sharp enough to give the listener whiplash. Cookie Butter is a series of present tense status updates – “I eat I drink I forget I buy” – running over a strangely comforting fuzz of background static. Then, at the track’s halfway mark, the static draws closer in until it’s drilling through your left ear like a power tool through concrete and metal.
No Home Record is taut and electric, sprung with adrenaline. As gripping as it is, there is a precedent for many of the tracks here: the textured chainsaw guitars build on the exploratory soundscapes Gordon crafted with Bill Nace as Body/Head, and the most raucous numbers share the same heavy swing she brought to Sonic Youth’s poppier moments. This leaves Paprika Pony as perhaps the record’s biggest surprise. Sterile and cold, it’s shocking for its sparseness. The trill of a notification is co-opted as a chiming, clinical beat and used to drive a woozy narrative that twists together barely coherent fragments of conversation. “What was the last thing you said?” murmurs Gordon, as if waking from a dream. Recorded, like the rest of the album, with producer Justin Raisen (Angel Olsen, Charli XCX), the song captures her knack for the uncanny, using the track’s negative space to fracture meaning.
Gordon’s imposing, gravelled voice feels like the one sure thing throughout a career that has spanned bands, fine art, fashion, film and memoir. She punctuates blunt statements with semi-ironic remarks and mostly avoids melody in favour of chewing on vowels and spitting out consonants. Airbnb, when Gordon says it, becomes “Air Bnb–ahhhh” and it’s impossible to tell if that last blast of breath is out of boredom, relish or disgust. After four decades of collaboration, Kim Gordon’s solo vision is as distinctive and recognisable as that voice. No Home Record sucks all the air out of the room, its victory lying in Gordon’s ability to sound so singular and still feel so unpredictable.