Real Life Rock Top Ten

A Monthly Column of Everyday Culture and Found Objects

by Greil Marcus

(1) Kim Gordon with Nirvana, “Aneurysm,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Barclays Center, Brooklyn (April 10). That Nirvana used its time onstage to have only women take Kurt Cobain’s place was the deepest kind of tribute to a man who in his music did everything he could to, in Camille Paglia’s words, “escape our lives in these fascist bodies.” But Joan Jett (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”), Lorde (“All Apologies”), and St. Vincent (“Lithium”) were karaoke. Late of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon was the singer her song was asking for, whether it was Cobain or someone else, even if now the song was getting more than it asked for. In a gray dress—“a dress by Theory I found. It reminded me of the dress I wore on that 1991 tour with Nirvana, just about a foot longer”—she was fierce, her head down, her eyes hooded. As she charged across the stage, the song might have been trying to run away from her, scared to death, but it didn’t make it.

(2) Woods, With Light and With Love (Woodsist). Jeremy Earl’s Brooklyn band sounds less like Brooklyn—or anywhere, or any time—with each new record. The nine-minute title song is the sort of have-guitar-will-travel excursion you don’t hear anymore—John Andrews’s organ keening in the background, Earl’s high voice breaking the pace, then increasing the pressure until only another guitar can stand up to it. The Serpent Power did it with “The Endless Tunnel,” Neil Young with “Cowgirl in the Sand,” Steely Dan with “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years”—while this is playing, you won’t care. At the end, with “Feather Man,” Earl twists a single tiny theme on an acoustic guitar and suddenly you’re hundreds of years in the past, hiding out in the Scottish highlands, waiting for the invaders from the South. How did the band get from one place to another as if all they had done was move from one chair to another? With the sense that in the time it takes to move from one chair to another, the room might disappear.

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