2019: The Year Kim Gordon Broke

Kim Gordon photo by Natalia Mantini.

In 2019, it can feel like everything’s been done five times over. But Kim Gordon manages to be provocative in seemingly effortless cool girl fashion.

Take the video for “Airbnb,” the second single from the 66-year-old’s solo debut, No Home Record, a tongue-in-cheek exercise in conceptual art. White, sans-serif text against a black background slowly feeds stage directions for the video — if there had been a budget for it — suggesting what might’ve been: Gordon crawling across a shag carpet, rubbing her guitar on furniture, removing clothing. The lyrics? A checklist of aspirational lifestyle items calculatedly placed about any modern home away from home. The track is trademark noise rock: subdued verse littered with staccato distortion and harmonics before a thundering chorus of screaming, bending guitar notes. “Air BnB/C’mon set me free” Gordon hollers ironically.

With her fashion plate designer vintage style, heavy-lidded smokey eye and sexy resting bitch scowl — not to mention driving bass lines, breathy, throaty sprechgesang and growling, evocative lyrics and stage presence to burn, Gordon’s always been a role model, however reluctant. Closing out a decade that’s seen seismic shifts in women’s place in the societal narrative — as well as recent tour announcements from ’90s alt-grrl cohorts Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Liz Phair — Gordon continues to develop complex critique through music at a point in her career where many established artists would coast. Instead, Gordon’s seasoned artistic perspective offers fresh takes on the modern world as she lays the groundwork for a brand-new archetype: the Kool Crone.

In the video for album opener “Sketch Artist,” she plays a gold-lidded rideshare driver picking up Abbi Jacobson in drag eyebrows, who joins a buckled-in kindergartner. A few phrases of cello open the song, which quickly kicks into industrial bass beats ahead of an airy piano break. Meanwhile, Gordon cruises through day and night, casting an unaffected side-eye to passersby who falling to the ground, writhing somewhere between a dancey seizure and the rapture.

Ever the chameleon, No Home Record finds Gordon in fine form with the experimental hip-hop beats of producer Justin Raisen, who’s previously worked with Yves Tumor, Angel Olsen, Charli XCX, and Ariel Pink among others. The stripped-down debut record is nine tracks of a modernized take on the avant punk Gordon cut into the musical landscape with Sonic Youth.

There’s the thundering bass beat and marimba on “Paprika Pony” and the Sonic Youth-esque spaciness of the pretty guitar crooner “Earthquake.” The record’s longest track, “Cookie Butter,” comes in at under 6.5 minutes, the latter half of those dripping with signature noise rock droning — against a twisted new-jack swing drum fill. “Get Yr Life Back,” a spoken word track with an ASMR effect, boasts a rare occurrence of a post-menopausal woman mentioning her shivering, erect nipples. And we need more of this.

Gordon has a handful of records and EPs to her credit this decade as half of the experimental guitar duo Body/Head. Her back catalog includes Sonic Youth side project Ciccone Youth, Free Kitten with Pussy Galore’s Julie Cafritz, and, of course, three decades as a founding member of one of the most influential bands in alt-rock history, Sonic Youth. But with No Home Record, she’s not getting the band back together and taking a victory lap as so many male musicians seem to do, putting out new versions of the same old sound. Gordon’s driving straight into the future.

That’s evidenced, too, through her visual art – she’s shown two exhibits in 2019, “Lo-Fi Glamour” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and “She Bites Her Tender Mind” at the Irish Museum Of Modern Art in Dublin. She’s represented by 303 Gallery in New York.

Gordon’s cemented herself this decade as a renaissance woman, defying the convention that women beyond reproductive age aren’t fit for vanguard status, deemed ineffective aside from what they can offer straight men. Ever on the front lines, Gordon’s taking up space and shattering the stereotype with a stomp of her strappy stiletto. Subtly defying those gender norms has been a hallmark of her career, and No Home Record sees her digging even deeper, proving that you can remain vital and cool as fuck at 66. If current and former indie rock girls need a role model, it’s still Kim Gordon.