When Thurston Moore unveiled his solo debut, Psychic Hearts, critics complained that the material sounded too much like the music he’d been releasing for the previous decade and a half with his band Sonic Youth. The same can’t be said about No Home Record, Kim Gordon’s first proper solo album. Instead, the Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist’s inaugural full-length is occasionally imbued with an edgy freshness thanks largely to the work of Justin Raisen, an eccentric, comparatively young producer who hadn’t even been born when Gordon and Moore formed Sonic Youth in 1981.
After the moaning of moody oboes, No Home Record hits you with the distorted, machine gun-like bass and stuttering percussion-driven “Sketch Artist”. Gordon’s patented rasp is on full display as she repeatedly purrs, “And the wind chime strikes, and dead stare strikes.” The song works well as an opener, as it immediately places Gordon’s familiar vocal style and cryptic lyrics in a new light that never feels like it’s alienating her being. “Air BnB”, with its spastic guitars and more traditional bass and drums, puts Gordon back into a setting longtime fans will be more accustomed to. No Home Record’s first single, “Murdered Out”, drops a down and dirty badass bassline over hard hitting drums to create a nasty groove that wouldn’t sound out of place in a sleazy strip club. “Turn me ooooooooonnnn!” Gordon implores over and over during the song’s chorus.
Just over the album’s halfway point, No Home Record hits a slump beginning with “Don’t Play It”. For close to five barely tolerable minutes Gordon lazily repeats the reverb-treated words “don’t play it back” over a wearisome drum machine. A similar lesson in tedium follows with “Cookie Butter” on which Gordon purports to flex beatnik cool by lamely speaking a collection of two-word lines like, “I eat, I drink, I forget, I buy, I drive…,” etc. over monotonous tinny drums and a sporadic, staggered bass. The track is a pretentious attempt at hipness that ends up being a six-plus-minute test of listener patience.
Fortunately, the last third of No Home Record finds its footing again with “Hungry Baby”. A bouncy bass, grinding guitars and perky drums fuel this upbeat moment that has Gordon anxiously shouting, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” in between lines like, “Hungry baby, get outta town, put down your limbs, you’ll feel fine.” No Home Record is concluded with “Get Yr Life Back”, a track that begins with whispered poetry over a spooky guitar and random background noise before falling into a doomy boom over which Gordon proclaims, “Every day, every day, every day, I feel bad for you, I feel bad for me, get your life back yoga.”
Overall, No Home Record is a mixed bag. For every smart, subversively cool moment there’s a mindless, uninteresting stretch that feels interminable. Is it worth wading through the insipidity to ferret out the moments of brilliance? Ultimately that depends on your level of patience.