Help Me Out A Li'l Bit Here:
Kim Gordon: vocals, guitar
Bill Nace: guitar
(Originally written 10/22/2013)
Coming Apart is the debut album from two immaculately-matched meteorologists who previously worked over the cable access air. It is also a pretty good description of life, right now.
My initial plan upon begrudgingly returning to my hometown was to stay with my Mom in the house now owned by her oldest daughter. Unfortunately, I was forbidden from moving in for a reason that I will not mention here because it makes someone--not me--look very bad. I took to social media and voiced my displeasure, which is never a bad idea. Fortunately, another of my siblings was able and willing to take me in. Unfortunately, the arrangement lasted only a month until they suddenly needed to relocate and I was unable to follow.
I was allowed to stay at Mom's place for a few days while looking for a new place to stay. I was facing a life on the streets, in and out of shelters, and I could scarcely stand up straight whenever I managed to roll out of bed. One poor decision and my world was collapsing. One by one, options fell through--including Lucy, my best friend throughout high school, who still lived in Hagerstown with her husband and two kids, and had absolutely no room for another person.
I didn't know how deep the fathoms could extend until a blazing Saturday afternoon this past July.
Two of my sisters--including the one who owned the home--were outside doing yard work. I was lying atop a made bed, the tears flooding my face, almost entirely in the dark save for the faint slivers of sunlight that slipped past the drawn shades. I was utterly unsuspecting, completely vulnerable, when my first sister entered the bedroom.
"Why don't you talk about your family the same way you do Sonic Youth and Snoopy?"
Although I deliberately do not follow family on social media, some of them had been spying on my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and hipped my sisters to the extremely bitter and hateful comments I had made. They were understandably hurt. Practically hysterical and genuinely remorseful, I laid out my mea culpa.
Soon enough, the oldest sister materialized at the bedroom door. For the next ten minutes, that is where she would stay as she railed into me with her special brand of "tough love," no one making a move to flip on a light. She was so apparently disgusted at the idea of being in a confined space with a traitor such as myself that letting all the cold air out of the room was a small price to pay.
As I quivered and quaked, she told me (in the same rigid and severe manner she picked up from our late father) that I was co-dependent on our mother, and that much of the blame for my current situation could be laid squarely at the feet of the woman who raised us. "She's your band-aid, and it needs to stop." Both sisters told me that I needed to get over myself. "There's other people in the world who have it much worse than you. We all have problems, you just gotta deal with them!"
A cleaner bisection of my heart could not have been performed. A more outstanding video showing crisis hotline workers how not to do their jobs could not have been filmed. Were my head not spinning from the betrayal, I might have even applauded.
"You need to get your shit together, you've had years to do it. I hope you do," were her final words, spoken as she turned to leave, the officious tone of her voice letting me know that she really did not hope for any such result. She had helped me, and I disappointed her, so she vowed to never help me again. Because that's how family works, right?
After one month in a quite-nice Days Inn (where I wrote, watched TV, read, and lost 20 pounds) my mom secured me a spot at a local women's shelter of fine repute. I hate it here, but I'd hate it anywhere in Hagerstown. That's just me. So I seek things to alleviate that chronic disdain, and for a month now, Body/Head has been the main thing, the thing I keep returning to like a great local restaurant. Listening to Kim Gordon work the limits has never been anything short of exhilarating.
"Abstract"--Nah, this ain't no discotheque. And if there is any sort of fooling around, it's being done by two people who aren't fools at all.
Tell me how you can live, knowing that someone in your family is floundering, knowing as well that you have the ability to help them out in some significant way--oh believe me, at this point they are all significant--and you do nothing but let the division grow and the discomfort fester. Tell me how a human mind reconciles that. Tell me. Then I will tell you about panic so deep the world begins to drown.
"I can only think of you in the abstract."
A song title so on-the-nose Kim's first word might as well be "Beep!"
"Murderess"--Sixty-seven seconds. More than enough time to relieve the planet of a life. Some impulses should stay secret.
Kim is off-key as ever. Raw as ever. Breathing on your neck, heat and cinnamon. How long can we go?
"Last Mistress"--Insert several sentences about the dangers of postulation here. The song, like the album in fact, is named after a movie. Kim retreats to the visual, not the visceral, which gives "Last Mistress" a spooky sense of detachment.
This is also the first of a few pieces on Coming Apart that are undeniably redolent of the best parts of A Thousand Leaves (which is to say, all the parts). How can I avoid falling in love with this record that's saying all the right things to all the right parts of my body?
"Actress"--We-should-melt-time. Dab a bit on a finger and suck up a taste or two. Honey-sweet to start, but blood-sour going down.
I act well for strangers. I'm still very much the polite, reserved young lady. Trials make a person better, or bitter. I would like to be finished with this show very soon, thanks.
"Untitled"--A brief instrumental in response to rumors, gossip, words untrue. A gorgeous quilt whose warmth I can trust eternally, even though sometimes the material irritates my skin.
"Everything Left"--And you may find yourself, collapsing in an undignified disarray. And you may ask yourself, "What if I'm out of my depths when it comes to living?"
The wounds are still so fresh. Yes, yes, I am applying ointment to the affected areas. I know enough to keep certain ones bandaged, and I realize also that from time to time the gauze must be changed, to let those ugly bastards breathe. I'm trying, you see? The insistence of memory coupled with the persistence of time is the most diabolical tag-team since The Conquistadors stretched the golden spandex.
"Can't Help You"--This music's turnin' me into mincemeat, takin' it's sour time of it too. I can't allow this to happen, no matter how caught up I become. The rebuilding process--financial, emotional, spiritual-- takes time and effort, so I will grasp a pen in each hand and close my eyes. I will think about the texture of the instruments, how resilient they are, and more than anything I will zone in on how comfortable I am holding them. Tactile therapy requires an expenditure of just a few minutes and it ends up buying me many more.
"Ain't"--A deleterious "cover" of Nina Simone's "Ain't Got No/I Got Life" that features Kim Gordon levitating through sheer willpower. No tricks, no trades, just desire. I am in awe. Body/Head surpasses any medical treatment I've thus far received.
Ain't got no job. Money. Prospects. Hope. Way out. The extemporaneous approach has not served me well.
"Black"--Another adaptation, this time of Patty Waters' "Black Is the Color (Of My True Love's Hair)." Bill and Kim guide us through the Catacombs of Paris via echolocation.
"Frontal"--No matter how we exit, we leave behind scattered objects in an abandoned room. What is within those four walls should not be interpreted as a grand summation of a life in toto, but only as a snapshot of that life at its ending. I endeavor to be charitable for those left behind--a thousand knives, left for your disguise.
"You're not gonna cut me in two!"
"You would have killed me/Had you not raped me."
This woman has amazed me, ceaselessly, for 23 years. I would love to be brave enough to expose my gears to the world the way Kim Gordon does and fear not the reprisals. As it stands right now, I can safely say that if I'd had inkling one way back when of what costs writing would extract, I would have repressed my creative urges and flung myself whole-hog into nice domestic stupor.
To many, Coming Apart is simply that. Some undistinguished free-form composition, some irritating shrieking. To others--to me--this is a joyously "difficult" album that meets every expectation. Listening to it, my reservations about myself evaporate. I suddenly feel fully prepared to do some dirty, dangerous, and possibly demeaning work just to get ahead. Some day, I just might have to.
Kim Gordon doesn't just walk on the thin ice. She breaks out the shaver and concocts her treats Baltimore-style. A tastier analgesic I have not come across this year.
I'd like to thank her one day for not letting me down.