Forget the autobiography – Courtney Love teams up with a manga mogul, Nick Cave pens a debut novel and Patti Smith shares her intimate Polaroids
We've been awaiting Kim Gordon's memoir for what feels like years. But good news! Girl in a Band is published in a matter of days, and it's everything we hoped for. Starting with Sonic Youth's final gig in 2011 and the breakdown of Gordon's marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore, it covers 30 years of rock history and gives an honest and often-angry account of a partnership that fans (and Gordon) assumed would last forever. Girl in a Band is the latest in a run of excellent rock autobiographies that have been published over the past few years (Patti Smith, Tracey Thorn, Viv Albertine). But why stop at autobiography? There's a host of other books out there by musicians, from novels and poetry to children's books and essays. Here are ten of the best to keep you busy until you can get hold of Girl in a Band next week.
PRINCESS AI BY COURTNEY LOVE (AND CO.)
In 2004, Courtney Love teamed up with DJ Milky, AKA manga mogul Stu Levy, to create the manga series Princess Ai. 'Ai' means 'love' in Japanese, and the Princess, like Love, is a rock star who falls for a sensitive musician, 'Kent'. But Ai is not just Love by another name: she is a winged amnesiac alien who inexplicably finds herself in Tokyo, and has to work out how she got there while defending her country, Ai Land, from violent demons. Princess Ai was originally published in three volumes, written and illustrated by Misaho Kujiradou, but now there's an Ai colouring book, Ai short stories, an Ai comic strip and, if you're really keen, Ai poetry by DJ Milky.
AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL BY NICK CAVE
And the Ass Saw the Angel is Nick Cave's debut novel, and it tells the story of Euchrid Euchrow, a mute born to abusive parents in the American south. It's exactly as any fan of Cave's music would expect: full of religion, violence and madness, and peopled with gothic weirdos and doomed visionaries.
FIGHT THE POWER: RAP, RACE AND REALITY BY CHUCK D AND YUSUF JAH
Fight the Power has got everything: social critique, autobiography, manifesto, song lyrics, and top-ten lists ("The Greatest Rappers of All Time"). It's as invaluable a guide to rap as it is to the racism and injustice that permeate American life. Writing with Yusuf Jah, Chuck D takes on topics as diverse as the military, the entertainment industry and the education system, and his anger is a call for activism. "I get up from having my ass kicked, therefore I get up to kick some ass," the book ends.
101 TWO-LETTER WORDS BY STEPHIN MERRITT
Every Scrabble fan knows that two-letter words are essential for using up your tiles at the end of a game. Every Scrabble fan also knows that it's hard to remember which two-letter words actually exist, and which are the product of wishful, victory-hungry thinking. Stephin Merritt, the driving force behind The Magnetic Fields, is here to help. He's invented a memory-aiding, four-line rhyming poem for each of the 101 two-letter words in The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, and collected them in a small book illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. If you could encapsulate The Magnetic Fields' entire oeuvre in four lines, it would look a lot like the entry for Id:
"Id, the source of primal drives,
like power, lust and money;
those urges other people have,
so tragic, and so funny."
THE WILDWOOD CHRONICLES BY COLIN MELOY AND CARSON ELLIS
Have you ever looked at the spooky, fairytale artwork on the Decemberists' album covers and wished you could see more? Wish no longer, for frontman Colin Meloy has written a whole series of children's books with his wife Carson Ellis, the illustrator who produces much of the band's artwork. Each of the three books in The Wildwood Chronicles is set in a fantastical version of Portland, Oregon, and each book sees children disappearing into the Impassable Wilderness to have adventures and defeat some bad guys. They are all magical and brilliant, and you should find a child to read them to as soon as possible.
THE FAVOURITE GAME BY LEONARD COHEN
Leonard Cohen started out as a poet and novelist in Montreal. When his literary career failed to bring in much money, he moved to New York to become a singer-songwriter. Music's gain was literature's loss, because the two novels he published are great (so are his poems, of course – but you'd guess that from his song lyrics). He wrote his debut, The Favourite Game, while living in London and on a Greek island. It's an autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Montreal and having a lot of sex while realising his vocation as a poet. He does not subsequently realise his vocation as a singer-songwriter.
THE MELANCHOLY ASSEMBLAGE / 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS BY DREW DANIEL
By night, Drew Daniel is a member of Matmos, the electronic duo which frequently collaborates and performs with Björk. By day, he teaches renaissance literature at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His most recent book is The Melancholy Assemblage: Affect and Epistemology in the English Renaissance, which I urge you to read. But if you're (understandably) after something a little less dense, he's also written a book about Throbbing Gristle's album 20 Jazz Funk Greats, for the ever-excellent 33 1/3 series.
LAND 250 BY PATTI SMITH
Patti Smith contains multitudes. As well as being one of the coolest women of all time, she's a singer, poet, memoirist, activist, painter, visionary, William Blake obsessive... and the author of Land 250, a collection of her Polaroids exhibited at Fondation Cartier in Paris in 2008.
THE VULTURE BY GIL SCOTT-HERON
Scott-Heron was 19 when he took a leave of absence from university to write The Vulture. It was published in 1970, the same year that he released his debut album. Narrated by four men, all differently connected to a murdered, drug-dealing teenager, it's both a murder mystery and a recreation of the violent, thrill-seeking world of 1960s inner-city New York.
SILENCE BY JOHN CAGE
Silence is a collection of lectures, essays, articles and scores by the avant-garde composer John Cage. Published in 1961, nine years after his groundbreaking silent composition "4'33", it's a fragmented investigation into the ways we make, listen to and think about music. Much of it is laid out like poetry, the punctuation and breaks on the page as important as the words. 'When we ignore (noise), it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating,' Cage writes at the beginning. And later:
"Each something is a celebration of the nothing that supports it."