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Swans - A Screw CD (album) cover

A SCREW

Swans

 

Post Rock/Math rock

3.09 | 3 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
3 stars As part of what I dub their "dollar sign" period, this single is actually pretty significant in their repertoire for a couple of reasons. One involves the continued addition of new instruments, in this case, horns, into their sound. They pop up in the tune "A Screw" almost like an additional pulsing level of percussion to the already very industrial teutonic pounding by the drums and percussion. Guitars and bass also act in a percussive rhythmic fashion, resulting in a song that sounds like some funky psychotic grinding dirge while Michael Gira's menacing lyrics ring clearly over this monstrous beat.

The other important landmark regarding this release for the band is the B-side, "Blackmail", as it's the first song to feature Jarboe as a lead vocalist. Unlike the serene and probably more well known rendition found on their later Children Of God release, this version is more sparse and haunting, using low octave piano notes struck hard and with enough of a reverb effect to emit an eerie vibe. Additional vocal tracks of Jarboe singing pop up during this number to add another sweet yet gloomy dimension to it. It's not the first track of theirs to feature a piano as the main instrument, but it's arguably the first to utilize it in such an ethereal fashion.

The other version of "A Screw", the 'Holy Money' mix, is also here. Heavier with the guitars but without the rather disturbing lyrical content, with only the creepy "Holy Money, Holy Love" chant delivered by Michael's sinister moan.

Being a prog site, I should mention that their 'dollar sign' releases are experimental in nature but not what would constitute 'prog' in any typical sense. But at the time, this was some quite unusual music, too heavy and unmelodious for much of the alternative crowd and too industrial and lacking much in the way of riffs for much of the typical metal crowd. In other words, I thought these 1986 releases were really cool! The songs, and those on this release are no exception, were also quite repetitive and hypnotic in nature, taking a single idea and building an entire song around it.

This isn't an essential release by the band, as this sound is more fully explored on the full length recordings surrounding it, but it's worth checking out.

Prog Sothoth | 3/5 |

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