Kim Gordon: The Collective Album Review

March 9, 2024 - Music

Kim Gordon, like everyone, is addicted to her phone. Her vicious and brilliant second solo album, The Collective, shares its name with a painting she exhibited at New York’s 303 Gallery last year; 27 iPhone-sized holes had been punched out the canvas, each gap a cute little reminder of every synapse you’ve fried watching parkour clips or chasing the infinite scroll. The album itself is even less subtle: Powered by ear-splitting trap beats and churning industrial guitar, anchored by lyrics in which Gordon recites packing lists or mutters about driving in Los Angeles, The Collective is a maelstrom of mundane thoughts and funny asides and flashes of pure rage whipped into a heavy, unnerving fog. It sounds how TikTok brain feels.

It’s a provocative but fitting new mode for Gordon, who, for over 40 years, has intermingled caustic experimental art with a mordant curiosity about mainstream culture. For every obtusely confrontational side project like Free Kitten, there is a Ciccone Youth, the Sonic Youth alter-ego dedicated to reinterpreting radio confections like “Into the Groove” and “Addicted to Love.” She holds down Body/Head, an elliptical guitar drone project with Bill Nace, yet also serenaded Rufus Humphrey and Lily van der Woodsen at their wedding on Gossip Girl. On The Collective, she lays her trademark breathy sprechgesang over what can only be described as Ken Carson-type beats, diving fully into the trap experiments she first tried on 2019’s No Home Record; sometimes, as on opening track “BYE BYE,” she genuinely sounds like a SoundCloud rapper, nonchalantly distending the names of luxury clothing brands: “Bella Freud, Y-S-L, Eck-haus-Lat-ta.”

No Home Record, Gordon’s first solo album after making music in bands for 38 years, was thematically oblique, but on songs like “Earthquake” and “Murdered Out,” her stoic visage slipped, revealing lyrics that sounded like stinging, unapologetic rebukes to a persona non grata in Gordon’s life. The Collective, made once again with alt-pop producer Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX), puts aside the score-settling in favor of fractured, stream-of-consciousness lyrics that mostly eschew poetry or diarism. The unrelentingly noisy vibe is appealingly impulsive and lizard-brained, like you’re hearing someone remind themself to form thoughts: She mumbles about buying overpriced potatoes and leaving out money for the cleaner, stretches the phrase “bowling trophies” into the album’s closest approximation of a melody, and wails something that sounds like a religious prophecy on “The Believers.” While recording, Raisen encouraged Gordon to bring her “abstract poetry shit,” and the resulting album feels simultaneously dense and invigorating; on “I Don’t Miss My Mind,” asides about home furnishings brush up against a goblin-voiced call to “suck it up/fuck it up” and a hazy memory of “crying in the subway.” There’s no lyric sheet, and many songs feel like Rorschach tests asking whether you hear resilience or brokenness, sex or violence, mundanity or surrealism. Often, it’s hard to tell the difference.

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