Kittens Go Grrr
Ann Donald offers a good home to Free Kitten, the new band of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.
Calling from the SoHo loft she shares with husband Thurston and daughter Coco Hayley Gordon Moore. is the 41-year-old woman who. with ultra-cool blonde strength, has turned the tables on the Neolithic crotch boys of guitar rock and become a role model to a generation of Rioting X-Grrrls.
Kim Gordon picked her first shuddering bass note with CKM. a band who performed at a conceptual art happening in a Boston gallery. it was only a Noise Fest away from hooking up with Sonic Youth as part of downtown Manhattan’s No-Wave scene of 1981. Ten provocative, aggressively loud and occasionally pretentious albums later. the Royal Family of all Dissonant Sounds are still veering from the vaguely reﬁned Dirty to the fragmented record-fast-sound- cheap of Experimental Jet Set. in the meantime, Gordon, never one to be branded a slacker, has stretched her musical toes doing spin-off projects with Velvets drummer Mo Tucker. a tribute album to writer Harry Crews with art-activist Lydia Lunch plus squeezing in co-directing credits for The Breeders‘ videos. co-producing Hole’s debut LP and launching her own X-Girl line of clothing.
‘i guess this is as close as we’re gonna get to bubblegum.’
More recently she has formed Free Kitten — a lo-fi band revelling in ‘anti-commercial music‘ — with Pussy Galore supremo Julie Cafritz and hired help from Pavement‘s Mark [bold on bass and Yoshimi from The Boredoms on drums. Asked how Free Kitten evolved. Cafritz booms out that it was a reaction to Thurston Moore ‘putting on this all-male wankers show. A real hideous matinee ofguitar wank.‘ Gordon‘s response is a tad less colourful. ‘Julie and l are best friends.‘ she explains with that spacy New York twang that’s punctuated with a clutch of ‘ums‘ and ‘I guess sos‘. ‘Wejust decided that we wanted to make music together. Julie and I share the same sensibilities and with Yoshimi. she’s one of the few people i know with the same history.’ she says. referring to the New York No-Wave scene. ‘There was a niche for what we wanted to do in being more experimental.‘
‘Experimental’ is definitely the key word when it comes to describing the screeching. splattering guitar and rumbling malevolence of Free Kitten's debut UK LP. Unbnxed. which was released in June. A compilation of import-only EPs and three live tracks. it is an aural scraping that oscillates from the avant- garde atonal to the stumbling wonder ofthe deconstructed X-Ray Spex cover ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours'. Their latest offering, Nice Ass. still blasts
Kim in Sonic Youth
forth with that unadulterated thrash menace but the farrago of naive guitar playing and ramshackle squalling has taken a back seat. allowing the barbed tunes to creep through. .
Hey. so where have all the screechy guitars gone. Kim? ‘Well. you know . . . we wrote these songs as a band as opposed to just Julie and l.‘ she explains. ‘l’m so used to the music that I play that none of it sounds “guitar screechy" to me.‘ she laughs. ‘These
Gordon and Catritz: Free Kitten new songs are more conventional, they’re more ABC. less fragmented pieces. I guess this is as close as we’re gonna get to bubblegum.‘ giggles the inaptly-dubbed lce Queen.
As a major babe with attitude and acumen a-plenty. Gordon has never been one to submerge her feminist views. Witness Free Kitten‘s humorous put-down delivered to potential male groupies in ‘Dick‘. or the gender politics of ‘Swimsuit lssue‘. How does she react. then. to retro comments such as the following from our own Queen of Spite. Julie Burchill‘? ‘A girl in a dress with a guitar looks weird . . . like a (log riding a bicycle.‘
‘There was a niche for what we wanted to do in being more experimental.’
‘Yeah. I guess it does look weird. but it looks kinda
exciting too. i like incongruities. That‘s the way you
find new things. by approaching it from a different point of view. Whether it‘s a whole different
sensibility that‘s not caught up in learning how to be
a musical technical virtuoso or even like trying to fit in with the pop formula ofjangly guitar. i think when punk rock started there were a lot of women who played in bands — it was part ofthe do-it-yourself
thing. I guess that's a tradition that‘s given a lot of
inspiration to women and 1 think that's still valid.‘ indeed. the purring raw power of Free Kitten is a natural continuation of this tradition. As the sneering ' vocals of Gordon on ‘l)ick' sassily proclaim — ‘WE ARE KlTTEN AND WE'RE BETTER THAN YOU!‘
Free Kitten play The Venue. Edinburgh on Wed 1/.
The List 16 December 1994—12 January 1995 45