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Free Kitten

You could call them the Traveling Wilburies of indie rock. Since the early '90s, Free Kitten has been the independent music community's most glamorous and highest profile side project, featuring Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon (guitar and vocals), former Pussy Galore member Julie Cafritz (guitar and vocals), the Boredoms' Yoshimi (drums), and Pavement's Mark Ibold (bass). A significant part of the band's oeuvre consists of the kind of focused, dirty art rock that distinguished late '80s Sonic Youth; in particular, the band's extended alternately tuned guitar tangents and Kim Gordon's strained speak-sing vocals recall Daydream Nation and Goo.

But there are other forces at play here as well. 1995's Nice Ass, the band's first full-length, saw them make an extended foray into the kind of irreverent trash rock for which Cafritz's former band was so renowned. On 1997's Sentimental Education, they inject some electronic beats and grooves into the angular guitar noise (DJ Spooky even helps out on one track). Free Kitten also devotes a considerable amount of time to pop parody (see their super-kitschy take on Serge Gainsbourg's "Teenie Weenie Boppie") and social satire.

All in all, Free Kitten's albums make for remarkably satisfying listening. Rather than be constricted by expectations given their other bands' stature, Free Kitten's members seem to feel freed up in this context. Free Kitten's press materials refer to their other bands as "side projects," and if the group keeps up this quality of output, the joke may become reality.