Swans

TrackAlbum
WeaklingFilth
Your PropertyCop
Money Is FleshGreed
You Need MeHoly Money
A ScrewPublic Castration Is A Good Idea
JimMy Father Will Guide Me
Up A Rope To The Sky
No Words No ThoughtsWe Rose From Your Bed
With The Sun In Our Head
The SeerThe Seer
The ApostateThe Seer
Kirsten SupineNot Here / Not Now

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Contributor: Rick J Leach

Swans were formed in New York in 1982 by singer/songwriter and musician, Michael Gira. It can be seen from some of the titles above, Gira is not a Laurel Canyon 1970s singer songwriter-type artist. In an ever-changing line up over 30 years or so, Michael Gira has been the only ever-present member of the band and his single-minded vision of Swans has not diminished one jot.

Swans are not a comedy band. They probably make the most unremittingly harsh music I’ve ever heard. Although it is uncompromising and an effort to get through more than one Swans track at a time, it is enjoyable. No, enjoyable is not the right word. It’s far from the right word. Rewarding is more appropriate. Or worthwhile. Or interesting. Or exciting. The best cultural analogy I can think of is that it’s like reading a particularly difficult novel; it might be hard work to get through to the last page, you may feel like giving it up, it may take a long time and significant amount of concentration, but ultimately it would be of value when you reach the end.

Early Swans gigs had a reputation for being extremely loud. There is a tale, probably all too true, that one show was so loud that members of the audience spontaneously vomited. Additionally, Michael Gira would stamp on peoples’ fingers if they were resting on the stage and would physically attack anyone in the crowd who was headbanging. Doesn’t it make you wish you’d seen them?

The early stuff – Filth, Cop, Greed, Holy Money – were all so single-minded in their purpose and vision; it seemed as if they had arrived fully-formed with a desperate urgency to communicate, just to get this music out. Swans artwork added to all of this. The first records had sleeves as straightforward as could be. Limited palette of colours – black, red, gold. The name of the album and Swans in the same bold typeface. That’s all it was. It looked like a piece of hardware or budget range supermarket goods. You knew what you were getting with Swans.

Swans were active from 1982 to 1997, when they went on a break before re-forming in 2010. They are still going strong and happy-go-lucky as ever. Any, in fact all, of the early stuff is worth investigating, and all of the post-reformation work is equally as forceful and compelling. Their only album to avoid – and I can’t say this strongly enough – is their only major label release, The Burning World. It is dross. Their cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, released as a single, should be steered away from if at all possible. Apart from that, you can’t go wrong with Swans. After all, any band who can record a track entitled You Fucking People Make Me Sick has to be worth a go.

 
Swans facebook

Young God Records – Swans page

Swans biography (iTunes)

The above track listing is in chronological order. You can read more about Swans in Rick’s book Totally Shuffled: A Year of Listening to Music on a Broken iPod which is available in e-book and paperback.

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