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by Raymond Cummings

September 10, 2013

The Many Faces of Kim Gordon

by Raymond Cummings  |  September 10, 2013

Coming Apart, the debut full-length from Body/Head, drops this week. On the album, the untucked guitars of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace conjure impressionistic drones as Gordon's vocals lay passive-aggressive waste to the semi-public wreckage of her divorce from Thurston Moore, a fellow member of the late, lamented Sonic Youth. In honor of this very literal exorcising of personal demons, we thought it was high time for a look back at some of Gordon's finest vocal moments.

For ace bloodcurdling social commentary laced with bile, try Gordon's turn on Dirty classic "Drunken Butterfly." Better yet, check grunged-out Bad Moon Rising chestnut "Brave Men Run": Gordon yowls through clenched teeth, like she's in the thick of a convenience store stick-up, as opposed to the existential cool she exudes over the tumbleweed riffage of "Cinderella's Big Score" from Goo. By contrast, her vocal on Rather Ripped standout "Jams Runs Free" is all breathy, heathery perfection: the indie-skronk equivalent of a barefoot hippie dance on a Malibu beach. Her Britney Spears and Madonna send-ups attracted the most ink, but her baby-talked Mariah Carey takedown bears the most replay value ("Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," from Sonic Nurse).

There's much to be said, though, for her less conventional turns: rolling around, disembodied, through eternal cymbal taps, on-the-fritz electronics and jazz-blat flatulence of ["Invito Al Cielo"]; trading non sequiturs with Moore and Yoko Ono on "Early in the Morning"; gasping over and quailing through the smothering, uber-workshopped noisescape of "Fried Mushroom" from her collaboration with Ikue Mori and DJ Olive. The dirty little secret of Gordon's career, though, is that she's at her sharpest when paired on the microphone with Pussy Galore's Julia Cafritz for their group Free Kitten, goofing on 1990s alt rock minutiae or blithely melding trad rock and turntablist mores.

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