Kim Gordon Keeps Experimentalism Alive On The Collective

A new solo effort from a rock veteran in the latter stages of their career wouldn’t exactly be something many new music fans would be rushing to hear in any given week. Then again, Kim Gordon isn’t just any rock veteran. And boy, does her second solo album, The Collective, leave quite the impression.

The 70-year-old musician is best known as the co-founder of New York noise rock legends Sonic Youth, a band who hold a reputation as alt-rock innovators notoriously difficult to get into (one recalls this excerpt from 2007 indie high school comedy film Juno)

On her latest outing, Gordon keeps this spirit of experimentalism alive through a 40-minute collection of songs that wallow in abrasiveness, hip-hop beats and distorted guitars. The merging of contemporary trap and experimental rock works a treat for the most part: a strangely fresh experience many of us probably didn’t realise we needed in our lives.

‘BYE BYE’ is an intriguing curtain raiser to set the scene on the project itself – trap beats merge wonderfully with a cutting industrial sound, while Kim Gordon’s detached vocals take us through her oddly fascinating, erm, holiday packing list (“Buy a suitcase, pants to the cleaner / Cigarettes for Keller / Call the vet, call the groomer” raps Gordon from the start)


In fact, the opening run of tracks are incredibly breathless in nature to immediately push the listener off the fence: the haunting ‘The Candy House’ leaves us in a sense of apocalyptic unease (“I won’t join the collective / But I want to see you” deadpans Gordon), while she ups the intensity on the eerie, masculine pride exploring ‘I’m A Man’.

The midsection is perhaps disappointed by a couple of tempered tracks that feel nowhere near as significant as the songs they’ve followed. Thankfully, this is just a minor detour. We’re soon won back again on the drug-fuelled ‘Psychedelic Orgasm’ and its weirdly tender, auto-tuned chorus hook (“L.A. is an art scene”).

The ominous ‘Shelf Warmer’ puts hip hop beats even further within the centre stage and is aided by atmospheric guitars, while the claustrophobic and haunting ‘The Believers’ is one you may wish to avoid before heading to bed if you wish to avoid nightmares. To finish, the capitalist-commentating ‘Dream Dollar’ meanders between a clunky bassline and fuzzy guitars, leaving us on edge to the bitter end (“Cement the brand / get in the room” she coldly repeats within the closing section)

Overall, The Collective haunts and unsettles. A marmite record that’ll be as equally loved as it’ll be as quickly written off as – like the film character Juno had said of Sonic Youth in 2007 – “just noise”. But, I guess, that’s the strength of this record – at least we rarely step into banal territory. What we have is a rock veteran pushing boundaries and adopting a contemporary aesthetic without the experiment ever feeling too contrived.

Merging electronica, hip hop, industrial and noise rock into one cohesive sound, Kim Gordon has provided a challenging and captivating a listen as we’ll hear in a long time.