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Swans - To Be Kind CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.98 | 216 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Something spectacular has happened with Swans. Something I would never have thought possible from a 60 year old bloke.

Those 14 years of retirement seem to have unleashed an uncontrollable monster. I was one of of the gang that lapped up 1996's 'Soundtracks for the Blind' believing it to be the perfect sendoff album, where every tune sounded like it would be the last tune they'd ever record. The intervening years were made up with wishy washy folkish nonentities, before the disappointing 'My Father Will Guide me up a Rope to Heaven' appeared out of nowhere to be followed by the excellent 'Seer' from 2012.

Then along comes this beast...

Happily I can say that 'To Be Kind' is superior to 'the Seer'. Whilst not the most tuneful of albums it's one of the most continually intense discs I've ever heard. More so than noise bands like 'Merzbow' and 'Whitehouse' who's intensity and aggression lead nowhere. This is more progressive and structured. The repetition of a one chord note is repeated over and over, with layer heaped upon layer, block on block building to a noisy, deafening crescendo on each track. It's almost like the sound of rivets being hammered into a battleship. Raw, loud, disturbing and with few electronic effects. This is, however, not your usual guitar, drum, bass and vocal album.

On 'To Be Kind' Gira is far more shouty and gruff than on the 'Seer' replete with profanities which sound fabulous in their authenticity. This is one seriously pissed off album folks.

'Just a Little Boy' sounds almost 'Captain Beefheart', bluesy but in a real dirty heavy way. Some of this reminds me of David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' film - that scene in the bar - cowboy hats, women, booze and all that. There's a memorable line in here where Gira screeches the words "I need looooovvve' only to be met with mocking laughter in surround sound stereo. Scary Monsters!

The highlight of 'To Be Kind' is the gargantuan 34 minute epic 'Bring the Sun ' which has many elements of '84's 'Cop', and 87''s 'Children of God' within. Similarities with 'Godspeed you Black Emperor' can also be traced - this however is far heavier in execution. After the monstrous build up a lot of weird effects occur at 17 mins. It's particularly disturbing as it appears to be close up microphone recordings of horses in distress. Absolute mayhem involving guitars , drum and bass breaks forth before a beautiful segment of quiet vibraphone plays. Then it's heads down again. Batten down the hatches for the next assault which takes us through 'Glenn Branca' territory. A caterwauling demented Gira spouts off some French stuff at maximum volume as drums smash and clatter at various points throughout the next ten minutes. I'm sure I can hear Stuka aircraft in there towards the end. This one track is longer than the whole of 'Pet Sounds' by the Beach Boys!

'She Loves us' clocks in at a hefty 17 mins and does that repetitive bass, guitar thing again but is driven by Gira's vocals which are screamed more than sung - like he's got a mouthful of cement whilst having a tourettes syndrome fit. A pulverising tune which crushes all in its path.

'Kirsten Supine' thankfully has a gentle and somewhat tuneful first 7 mins after what's gone before. thereafter it takes a real nasty turn with pounding drums, bass and guitar squeals and groans.

'Oxygen' is my personal favourite on this album. A very odd, hard drumbeat, crunches and bangs in amongst Gira's aggressive gutteral vocals. This sounds like it belongs on 83's 'Filth' A superbly violent track that would get you up over the trenches in Verdun in 1916 quick time.

I hear some good old fashioned Oberheim 70's keyboards at the start of the final track 'To Be Kind' The nice, quiet intro includes the creepy vocal delivery 'There are millions and millions of stars in yourrrrrrrr eyes' before setting up the grand finale where everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in at once for one very noisy ending.

For the sheer audacity and without a care as to what the masses want to hear I have to give this a five star rating. Other than 'Killing Joke' I can't think of another band who have continually bettered themselves in such a dramatic and important way after such a long periods of inactivity.

Swans have had a career in reverse. All plaudits and recognition coming after 30 years of toil and hardship. The best has clearly been saved to last. Out of their entire discography this is the best Swans album I've heard... hands down... no doubts.

Dobermensch | 5/5 |


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