Kim Gordon 2024
Photo: Danielle Neu / Grandstand Media

Kim Gordon’s ‘The Collective’ Is an Addictive Mix of Sounds

Who had Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon making a collection of trunk-rattling near hip-hop and industrial noise on their 2024 bingo card?

The Collective
Kim Gordon
8 March 2024

Kim Gordon has nothing to prove to anyone at this point, but she has been remarkably adept in choosing effective ways to stretch herself throughout her career. Sonic Youth never stood still, and her collaborations with Bill Nace as Body/Head showed her continued exploration of mostly percussionless noise. Established artists embracing new sounds have a bumpy track record, but it is seemingly for her.

For her first proper solo album, No Home Record, she added beats to the fuzzed-out guitars, and songs like “Air BnB” and “Hungry Baby” sounded like what one might expect from a 2019 version of Sonic Youth. But “Paprika Pony” and “Don’t Play It” showed the way forward, blending beats and layers of industrial noise, with Gordon tossing out stream-of-consciousness vocals. On The Collective, Gordon pushes further into that sound, and this is a clear highlight of the year so far.  

No Home Record and The Collective were produced by Justin Raisen, known for his work with Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira. The Collective is even denser, more unrelenting. Together, they further explore the loops and noisy guitars used brilliantly on that record. Thematically, this is an album of the times, influenced by SoundCloud rap and jumping from topic to topic. The lead single and opening track, “BYE BYE”, produced by SADPONY, is an alluring and addictive mix of stabs of guitar and drum loops. Gordon recites her packing list for a trip, and it is far more riveting than it should be as she name-drops designers and luxury items alongside mundane ones.

Sonic Youth fans know they fostered a connection to hip-hop, from the legendary “Kool Thing”, supposedly based on Gordon’s experience interviewing LL Cool J and features a Chuck D cameo to their collaboration with Cypress Hill on the canonical soundtrack to a forgettable movie Judgment Night. Sonically (pardon the pun), this is a near-even split of trap beats and more industrial sheets of sound. Kim Gordon’s former band also showed a fascination with popular culture that is shared by The Collective. Released in 1988 as Ciccone Youth, The Whitey Album was a sampler of the band covering 1980s radio hits like “Addicted to Love” and Madonna’s “Into the Groove”, but tracks like “Making the Nature Scene” and “G-Force” don’t sound too far off from The Collective, mixing near industrial sounds with Gordon’s provocations. The closer, “Dream Dollar”, sounds like a Daydream Nation outtake thrown in a blender.

There is a vagueness of themes but a litany of compelling images and moments. The lyrics are a swirl of toughness, sexiness, brokenness, and surrealism, and the dominant theme will likely be determined by the mood you are in when you listen. But there are some overt messages. “I’m a Man” finds her taking aim at toxic masculinity. Some of the lyrics sound like they could have spewed forth from a Fox News pundit. “It’s not my fault I was born a man” and “Don’t call me toxic / Just cause I like your butt” sound like something you’d hear accidentally on a hot mic. But Gordon is too smart just to shoot the fish in the barrel. Later, she sings, “I’m supposed to save you / But you got a job / You got a degree / And I’m just a fucking slob.” In a sense, it’s a compelling counterpoint to “Kool Thing” three decades later, with her answering the questions she asked of Chuck D in that song.

Who had Kim Gordon making a collection of trunk-rattling near hip-hop and industrial noise on their 2024 bingo card? The Collective is hard to pin down, but that is part of what makes it so compelling. 

RATING 8 / 10