Gordon Youth: Kim, Legacy, and Me

What Stories Were Told To Us In The 1980s Anyway?

I was trying to think about beds, about sleeping, and for some reason I was thinking about Transformers—the original, 1980s ones. As I recall, Autobots slept on large, cot-like suspended metal sheets. What an odd detail. What an odd selection to try to “humanize” them. Decepticons as deprivileged misunderstood minority? The Autobot narrative is part of systemic post-colonial oppression! Or maybe not… There were precious few female Autobots, precious few female GI Joes. To be fair to the latter franchise—GI Joe had some of the best realized, capable female villains. Were there any female Decepticons? I almost feel like the tokenism sort of worked—most everyone my side of Generation X could accept female rock stars without it being a big deal. I actually appreciate some of what’s going on with Generation Y’s music scene—they’re much more Sonic Youth than Limp Bizkit, and that’s a very good thing.

Which Stories About Sonic Youth Do We Talk About?

Speaking of which, Kim Gordon’s divorce is a non-story and frankly I thought ever so slightly less of her for writing a book about it. Actually, most of my respect for Kim Gordon stems from what she does with a guitar; male rock stars and rappers with talent and success get a pass for over-sharing all the time (hi Kanye!). I guess she has just as much right to a vapid spotlight on her personal life as anyone. I think ‘but what is the future, now?’ was her actual problem: the revolution is over, we won, Generation X won, Sonic Youth won, Kim Gordon won and now her hot, brilliant, weird rocker chick wife—Thurston Moore—lost interest and ran off. Why isn’t she just fucking grad school-drop out savant guitar players at this point?

To the extent that I’m a feminist, I guess, I felt like even addressing the divorce publicly—let alone discussing it on Jezebel—just cheapened Gordon’s legacy. I think of her when I think of Sonic Youth; she’s the face and the sound of the band, and even now like Ike Turner is meaningless without Tina Turner, I think of Kim Gordon when I think of Thurston Moore. Of course, a little while later, I think about—or involuntarily remember—Moore’s dozen or so tedious side projects, each less interesting or remarkable than the last; Chelsea Light Moving? really? REALLY!? Oh!—for the record, I really liked Free Kitten, Kim Gordon’s side project.

What Was I Talking About Again?

Beds; I was talking about beds. So now Kim Gordon’s bed has changed, a single bed, an empty bed—a divorced bed. We won the revolution and our victory meant nothing and now we go home alone and surf the web and snark-out on popular culture and go to bed alone (or not); if Kim Gordon, though, can’t find anything to say now—anything beyond Thurston Moore—then in a way an entire facet of Generation X culture has become as pointless and lost as the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan or the American occupation of Iraq. What did Daydream Nation even mean, in the end? Would that legacy be rich enough, even, to form a background to the future, a platform, even just something for the next generation to rebel against? Or does the no-wave post-punk legacy of Generation X—and one of the bands credited for inspiring Kurt Cobain and Nirvana—does it all become a giant generational footnote: there were The Beatles, and The Stones, and The Who, and maybe Zeppelin, and then a whole bunch of New Wave and Nirvana and Linkin Park and stuff. Et cetera. If the end of Sonic Youth sums up to basically just divorce and mid-life crisis, then once again Generation X has found itself running in the race it was running to escape.

What Stories Have We Built Around Flawed Heroes?

I sometimes wonder if Kurt Cobain had lived, if he’d have fucked up, if he’d have been more clearly recognized as the brilliant and broken prophet he was, one who has no real purchase on God beyond the truth in a guitar. If you listen to Cobain’s interviews, it becomes clear that reaction and shock themselves became tired and boring commodities. Perhaps he killed himself, in part, because he didn’t want to admit to himself being complicit in what has now caught up with Kim Gordon: once you get to the top, once the revolution has won, the whole thing becomes a race to the see which animal, specifically, finally stands up on its hind legs like the banished humans; was the whole point of “Goo” and “Washing Machine” so that you’d have enough fame and media pull to discuss your divorce on Jezebel?

Which Stories Do I Keep Telling Myself?

For whatever reason, two quotes keep pinging back and forth through my head whenever I think about Sonic Youth, about what they meant and mean, especially to me:

Hey Kool thing? I just wanna know—when are you gonna liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression? […] I just want you to know, we can still be friends.—”Kool Thing”

and

And I looked up in the clouds and I saw this face looking down at me and it’s a woman’s face and she threw a quarter down at me and she said: ‘honey, here’s a quarter, go put it in the washing machine.’—”Washing Machine”

I was going to say something snarky, in this part of the essay, something that began with “Hey Kim! When are you going to liberate us from vapid, token social media”—weak, very weak, I admit, because my heart’s not in it; I’m not even going to bother to refine it or clarify it or improve it. I really don’t want to. I don’t want to, in part, because to me the second lyric, from Washing Machine, still inspires me, still speaks to me about self-liberation and transcendence. I still believe in counter culture, in No Wave post-punk, and I still live in a Daydream Nation, still pray to the Goddess and the Washing Machine. Maybe you can put the washing machine out in place of the marriage bed—a bed is a really tired, facile symbol for so much already, and a washing machine is fun, mechanical, industrial, sincere.