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Swans The Beggar album cover
4.10 | 48 ratings | 4 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2023

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (69:08)
1. The Parasite (8:21)
2. Paradise Is Mine (9:23)
3. Los Angeles: City of Death (3:29)
4. Michael Is Done (6:08)
5. Unforming (5:55)
6. The Beggar (10:15)
7. No More of This (6:55)
8. Ebbing (11:04)
9. Why Can't I Have What I Want Any Time That I Want? (7:38)

CD 2 (52:29)
10. The Beggar Lover (Three) (43:51) - Not on LP
11. The Memorious (8:38)

Total Time 121:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Gira / vocals, words, acoustic guitar, production
- Kristof Hahn / lap steel guitar, various guitars, vocals
- Larry Mullins / drums, orchestral percussion, Mellotron, vibes, keyboards, backing vocals
- Dana Schechter / bass, lap steel, keyboards, vocals, piano
- Christopher Pravdica / bass, sounds, keyboards, vocals
- Phil Puleo / drums & percussion, vocals, piano, exotic wind instruments
- Ben Frost / guitar, synthesizers, sound manipulations
- Jennifer Gira / backing vocals
- Lucy Kruger / backing vocals
- Laura Carbone / backing vocals
- Ingo Krauss / engineering
- Doug Henderson / mastering

Releases information

Artwork: Nicole Boitos

2CD Young God Records
2LP Young God Records, with one less track (#10)

Thanks to Captain Midnight for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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SWANS The Beggar ratings distribution

(48 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(25%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (19%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SWANS The Beggar reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Michael Gira's last Swans album? Really?

CD 1 (69:08) 1. "The Parasite" (8:21) (17/20) 2. "Paradise Is Mine" (9:23) (17.25/20) 3. "Los Angeles: City of Death" (3:29) (8.5/10)

4. "Michael Is Done" (6:08) 'tron, female b vox, whispered vocal but it's all about attaining orgasm (in order to be finished with ? life?). The second, instrumental motif is like music from a 1960s pop song. (Is that Michael's idea of Heaven/Nirvana?) At least this makes it mildly more entertaining than the previous 20 minutes of the album. (8.6667/10)

5. "Unforming" (5:55) is Michael even really trying to sing? The C&W sound palette works okay for this song--making it mildly more interesting than the album's first 20 minutes--and there's even a climax at the end with the "freedom" proclamation. (8.66667/10)

6. "The Beggar" (10:15) nice foundation laid down from the opening.. Even Michael's forceful singing of his ominous lyrics is somehow engaging. The ramp up at the very end of the fourth minute is great (despite its CURE/COCTEAU TWINS sound and feel). The final ramp up at 8:00 is awesome and powerful. A top three song for me. (18/20)

7. "No More of This" (6:55) the music is a little dull and dirgey, but the vocal(s) is compelling. (13.25/15)

8. "Ebbing" (11:04) music supporting a Buddhist chant fest. (17.5/20)

9. "Why Can't I Have What I Want Any Time That I Want?" (7:38) the most engaging, compelling, creative, fully- developed, articulate, and lyrically-impressive song on the first disc. I love the eerie arrangement of the background vocalists and the fuller-musical weave of multiple instruments each adding their own important and distinctive thread to the song. A top three song. (14/15)

CD 2 (52:29) 10. "The Beggar Lover (Three)" (43:51) (Not on the LP) - Constantly morphing orchestral chordal discord over the first three minutes is so awesome! So much like the music I came to know and love from my first Swans acquisition, The Seer. Then we move to tubular bells, droning harmonium-like sound, and gentle seaside Brian Eno-like tuned percussion hits before and while a female voice recites (as if from a film soundtrack) a soliloquy about what life after death will be like. At the five-minute mark we move into an earthquake of percussion play. Steel-bending saw guitar and synth sounds soon join in. Drumming ends as church organ, orchestral bass notes, and an eerie chord is sung by a female choir for a minute or so before synths and other orchestral instruments provide a chilling PRESENT-like fabric over which Michael begins speaking lullaby words like "milk" and "sleepy close your eyes" in the eleventh minute. In the 12th minute fast-drummed metallic tuned percussives somehow supplant the organ-bass-choir motif with their own disturbing "alarm." This, in turn, is seemlessly supplanted 90 seconds later by a more space-industrial motif of synths and robotic rhythm instruments. These ghost-like synths are awesome over/with the plodding, relentless momentum supplied by the bass, synths, cymbals, and voice samples. Great section! At 18:00 a long, pulsing, CURE-like instrumental passage takes over, carrying us to the 22:00 mark where all instruments cut out leaving us only the mostly-female vocal choir to carry the song in its own constantly-morphing chordal flow. At 24:00 a bird-like screeching violin takes over, a cappella, for a full minute before a vocal diction coach enters to teach us vocal sounds before a different drum cascade provides the background for infant/baby vocalizations followed by toddler words & nursery rhymes ("This Old Man") as recited by a young boy. At 27:30 there is another transition led by droning guitar note before finger-picked acoustic guitar arpeggi and synth notes weave together to provide a kind of monotone carpet roll while a young child interjects an occasional "Da-ad!" or squeal. After reaching the 30-minute mark adult voices make their appearances over the guitar-synth carpet roll: first with adult male vocalizations then with a long rolling drone of sustained female choir notes (lasting about 90 seconds). Then, at 32:05, everything shifts again, back to a rolling drumming sequence from some tympanic-like drums. At 33:30 a single strummed guitar arpeggi begins a long repeat (loop) as jazz double bass and drum play (mostly cymbals and rim shots with the occasional bass drum and snare hits) join in. At 35:40 Michael joins in with his two-tone voice reciting a kind of DAVID BYRNE/ADRIAN BELEW-like list of things he "can" do with "it." Keys/synths and smooth/relaxing runs from tuned percussion join in as the jazz foundation and droning voice-list continue into the 44th minute--right to the song's end. I'm so glad Michael decided to give the listener something peaceful and relaxing to sink into! It is so difficult to sustain high-quality music, complete with tension and engaging melody or interesting components, over the length of 44 minutes, but this song does so fairly well--which I was not expecting after the inconsistent (and often maudlin simplicity of the) first CD (especially the first three songs). And what makes this long epic even more exceptional is the way it is always flowing and morphing into something totally fresh and new about every 90 seconds--which means there are about 30 palettes or motifs to the tapestry! Definitely another top three song for me and one of the best long-playing prog epics of 2023. (86/90)

11. "The Memorious" (8:38) old rhythms and pacing with "Da-ad" vocal epithets from a toddler and undistinguishable adult vocalizations open this one. At 1:30 a male voice begins a recitation of some poetry over the top of everything else. This is old, classic Swans with some simple King Crimson-like guitar patterning and Iggy Pop-like spoken vocals. The bursts of choir chords in the background are this time male-dominated. A decent but not outstanding song. (17.66667/20)

Total Time 121:37

Would that lyrics/words were my reason for listening to music I might like this album more. Musically those first three songs are so boring, simplistic, and repetitive--and so lyric-dependent--that I felt lost--forlorn that there was no way in hell that I could possibly end up liking this album. But, thank goodness I kept going as the music and songs gradually began to get better, become more engaging and interesting, so that I was drawn back to try all of the first songs over again. (I still don't like them.) The choir of female background vocalists helps but it's often just not enough to elevate these songs into engaging above monastic chants. Thank goodness for everything after "The Beggar" and especially the 44-minute "The Beggar Lover (Three)"--one of the best long-playing prog epics I've heard in a long time. IN short, this is an inconsistent album that really pays off big time if you stick with it (yes: all the way through its 121 minutes).

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music--highly recommended to any prog lover to try out for themselves.

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars Although SWANS originated on the tail end of the obscure NYC no wave scene some four decades ago, this project led by Michael Gira has exhibited an amazing staying power by leaving all the competitors in the dust while consistently reinventing the SWANS sound to transverse itself into more contemporary styles of experimental rock. While jettisoning the skronky guitar dissonance long ago and transmogrifying into a form of post-rock, SWANS unlike any other band has showcased how the no wave movement was in many ways a precursor to the world of post-rock and here in the current calendar year of 2023, Gira returns with SWANS' 16th studio album titled THE BEGGAR.

I have been a fan of pretty much everything this band has cranked out right from the no wave industrial noise rock of 1983's 'Filth' to folk and drone fueled totalism meets post-rock on the more recent albums like 'The Glowing Man' however with 2019's 'leaving meaning' i was actually left cold as Gira's approach had shifted significantly from a hypnotic detached methodology to one that incorporated Gothic country and Neofolk however what i hated the most about that album was vocal style that sounded as if it was trying to emulate happy-go-lucky pop artists from the 50s and 60s. That album was a complete dud to many and it seemed SWANS might have run out of steam.

No such problem though as Gira hasn't successfully navigated the decades by not paying attention to the reaction of the fans. He experienced a similar hiccough with 2010's 'My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky,' which personally i love but many did not. Apparently GIra got the memo and on THE BEGGAR returns to that same mopey vocal delivery like he just woke up from a series of bad dreams and is here to recount his experience through poetic prose set to a menagerie of post-rock, neofolk, droning, sound collages, ambience, gothic rock, avant-folk and even a bit of goth country. This time around though he succeeds in his efforts given that this formula of simplified music based on melodramatic continuity can be very fragile and any particular element skewed in any particle direction can result in a total derailment of tolerability.

I don't know how he does it but beginning with 2012's 'The Seer,' SWANS only releases double albums or at least the modern equivalent of what would once be considered as such. THE BEGGAR is another sprawling series of tracks that collectively slink past the two hour mark at nearly 122 minutes! While not as dark and depressive as earlier SWANS albums, THE BEGGAR seems to reject the overt happy campiness of 'leaving meaning' but not jettison it altogether. Gira seems to have simply refined that formula by connected it more successfully to the stylistic approaches of the past with a continuity that allows a two hour plus album to not lose its momentum. With only 11 tracks, the majority are lengthy sprawlers but in reality the second to the last track 'The Beggar Lover (Three)' consumes almost 44 minutes of this album's playing time!

What makes many SWANS albums to intriguing is that they are instantly likable with no digging required to connect to receive an instant impact but yet find many subtleties buried beneath the surface. An ominous mix of goth-tinged post-rock with ethereal atmospheres and processional cyclical loops that meander for large chunks of time, THE BEGGAR also features a lot of lap steel guitar sounds as well as many ethnic instrumentation such as the dulcimer, fujara or duduk. Gira employs seven musicians and two vocalists to bring THE BEGGAR its magical hypnotic touches and does so triumphantly.

Somehow in the modern world where attention spans have been reduced to mere blurbs, SWANS has managed to memorize the listener with lengthy sprawling musical compositions. While this album is great, the best track is the longest. At nearly 44 minutes, 'The Beggar Love (Three)' has a running time of a traditional vinyl length album and yet it is the best and most hauntingly beautiful track on the entire album. SWANS is best when it is allowed to just slowly drift into a world of its own making. This hypnotic and ethereal dreamy track just perfectly ratchets up the perfect tension with a beautiful atmospheric accompaniment that works in tandem with the martial rhythmic grooves that culminates in a heftier rock sequence around the 20-minute mark. A few minutes later the music drops out altogether and becomes a series of percussive chaos and spoken word samplings. In short the track is the perfect marriage of drone, ambient, post-rock and miscellaneous sound effects. The album ends with its most energetic, 'The Memorious' which exits on a fiery note.

Overall THE BEGGAR shows that SWANS is in no way of danger of burning out. Gira is has an uncanny ability to keep cranking out engaging albums that on paper sound as if they should bore you to tears. SWANS albums are very difficult to describe because words can't really convey the depths of emotional responses that they evoke. Gira has proven time and time again that he can go against the grain at every step of the way and still provide something captivating in a manner that no other has quite latched onto. It's hard to believe that some 41 years after SWANS was created that yet another album emerging in 2023 will surely rank right up there with other masterful creations. Is this SWANS' best album? I wouldn't go that far. I don't think albums like 'Children Of God' can ever be topped. Even more recent albums like 'The Seer' and 'To Be Kind' are more varied and interesting but there is no doubt that THE BEGGAR doesn't not disappoint from beginning to end and for that i must applaud Michael Gira and his endless wellspring of creativity that shows no sign of letting up. Bravo!

Latest members reviews

5 stars Whenever I try to review an album, even if I scarcely do it, there's always the fear that all I'll put down is a mere slurry of cliched phrases and thoughtless praising to high heaven. So it comes as more of a challenge when Swans, a band I've championed for years, puts out a new album, and I'm face ... (read more)

Report this review (#2935284) | Posted by Rrattlesnake | Friday, June 23, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars While I am aware that Michael Gira has stated that each Swans project is treated like if it's the last this truly feels like the band is finally giving us a send off. The Beggar lyrically reminds me a lot of David Bowie's Blackstar the album is painted in death (I hope Michael is doing alright b ... (read more)

Report this review (#2935273) | Posted by Captain Midnight | Friday, June 23, 2023 | Review Permanlink

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