Kim Gordon – ‘The Collective’ album review: impressive innovation proves the musician’s vital legacy

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‘The Collective’ – Kim Gordon

THE SKINNY: Kim Gordon was always the glue that held Sonic Youth together. By delivering memorable basslines and feminist lyrics in her distinctive, often unmelodic voice, Gordon allowed the band to stand out compared to their contemporaries. Since then, Gordon’s penchant for experimentalism and a wide range of genres has manifested in projects such as Free Kitten and Body/Head.

However, her solo projects, beginning with 2019’s incredible No Home Record and now its stunning follow-up, The Collective, only continue to prove Gordon to be one of the most innovative and vital artists of her generation. Made in collaboration with Justin Raisen, a producer known for working with artists like Charli XCX and Drake, Gordon’s sophomore solo record is a reinvention of the genre, merging abrasive noise rock – paying homage to her roots as a pioneer of the style – with trendy trap beats.

The Collective begins with the pounding ‘BYE BYE’, which sees Gordon plan an escape and read out her packing list, which includes “sleeping pills”, a “vibrator”, and “contact solution”. Who would’ve thought a checklist could sound so good? As beats glitch and thump and guitars make unnerving grinding sounds, Gordon sounds calm and composed, ready to embark on a journey that seems to unravel across the rest of the album. 

From there, the musician is relentless in delivering spellbinding sonic combinations which only someone as seasoned as Gordon could master so effortlessly. From one song to the next, you can’t catch a break as hard-hitting beats crash down, with Gordon weaving her voice between seductive, assertive, and self-assured tones.  

Some tracks are considerably less assaulting and intense, such as ‘Shelf Warmer’, which moves with silky smooth ease, possessing an essence that feels almost teasing and mysterious. Elsewhere, Gordon doesn’t hold back, with tracks like ‘I’m A Man’ best played loud.

While the record is certain to appeal to Sonic Youth fans who have always appreciated Gordon’s more experimental contributions, The Collective will undoubtedly introduce new fans, perhaps those more interested in modern trap artists, to Gordon’s brilliance, too. 

For fans of: Appearing mysterious and wanting to go on the run (with little more than a good pair of headphones).

A concluding comment from my dad: “I’m not a fan of trap music, but Kim Gordon seems to know what she’s doing. I can’t deny this is really good, but I think I’ll stick to playing my copies of Goo and Dirty in the car for now.”

The Collective track-by-track:

‘BYE BYE’: Perhaps the most powerful and arresting opener Gordon could’ve picked. A thrilling insight into Gordon’s travel essentials, the stoic nature of her voice leaves you wanting to know more. [4.5/5]

‘The Candy House’: To put this into the simplest words, this song is so good; addictive, even. While listening to the album, I kept coming back to ‘The Candy House’, with its mesmerising, sometimes fading instrumentals and obscured vocals. [4.5/5] 

‘I Don’t Miss My Mind’: Opening with a sound like someone smacking metal, Gordon is reflective, her voice often layered to create an uncanny effect. Slightly repetitive and motorik, it is as though Gordon is marching powerfully towards us, advising, “Don’t fuck it up.” [3.5/5]

‘I’m A Man’: Noise rock fans will perhaps enjoy this one the most due to the abrasive guitars that whir in the background, creating an air of power and dominance. Gordon is playful here, yet there is an overlying essence of intimidation. [4/5]

‘Trophies’: This is one of the shortest songs on the record and perhaps one of the less accessible due to its unusual structure and slight lack of direction. However, this will certainly appeal to those with more experimental persuasions. [3/5]

‘It’s Dark Inside’: A thumping and vigorous beginning makes way for stop-start abrasion as Gordon sings over dramatic bursts of industrial-sounding instrumentation. I can imagine this one would be quite intense, scary even, to experience live. [3.5/5]

‘Psychedelic Orgasm’: Gordon manages to describe the current landscape of Los Angeles, including “all the kids/ Tik-Toking around/ Sipping on the smoothies,” without sounding cliché or uninspired. Drugs, orgasms and art merge in this auto-tuned ménage à trois. [4/5]

‘Tree House’: There are more moments of mellowness here than on other songs, but these are soon smashed to pieces by louder, mechanical moments of noise. [3.5/5]

‘Shelf Warmer’: A really intoxicating trap beat backs this song, which sees Gordon give a controlled and evocative vocal performance as hazy, sultry guitars morph in and out of the soundscape. [4/5]

‘The Believers’: Gordon strikes us with an all-encompassing wall of sound here, gearing up for an explosion. Like a bad trip or extreme paranoia, ‘The Believers’ pummels down on you and draws you into a world verging on a nightmare. [4/5]

‘Dream Dollar’: Fast-paced synths and percussion give ‘Dream Dollar’ instant pull, and Gordon’s voice is, again, playful, although the song blurs the line between fun and slightly unnerving and brooding. [3.5/5]

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