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SWANS

Post Rock/Math rock • United States


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Swans biography
Part of the original No Wave scene in the early 1980's, the New York City rock band SWANS has since become one of the most respected experimental rock outfits to the present. Led by the visionary vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Michael GIRA, SWANS operated for nearly two decades from their inception in 1983, he is also well known producer. His daunting and impressive songwriting abilities created some of the strangest and revolutionary music to date. Influences of post-rock are seen in numerous records, notable in Soundtracks for the Blind, which predates a lot of the crescendo-core stuff, and the band has influenced numerous post-rock bands with their ever expanding sound and advanced technical approach to rock music. Although they broke up in 1997, SWANS reunited in 2010 to record two more albums, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky and The Seer.

Bio written by The Truth(Tanner)and updated by zravkapt(Darryl)

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Buy SWANS Music


To Be KindTo Be Kind
YOUNG GOD 2014
Audio CD$9.83
$15.25 (used)
SeerSeer
Special Edition
YOUNG GOD 2012
Audio CD$14.52
$13.99 (used)
Soundtracks for the BlindSoundtracks for the Blind
Soundtrack
YOUNG GOD 2001
Audio CD$17.18
$14.95 (used)
Cop / Young God / Greed / Holy MoneyCop / Young God / Greed / Holy Money
Import
Universal UK 2010
Audio CD$9.93
$15.12 (used)
Children of God / World of SkinChildren of God / World of Skin
Remastered
YOUNG GOD 2003
Audio CD$18.28
$25.00 (used)
Various FailuresVarious Failures
YOUNG GOD 1999
Audio CD$12.15
$16.47 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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SWANS Love Will Save You UK 4 track promo sampler +A4 biog sheets 1991 ex US $24.57 Buy It Now 2 days
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More places to buy SWANS music online Buy SWANS & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
  • AmazonMP3: Search for SWANS DRM-Free MP3 Downloads @ AmazonMP3 (USA Only) | AmazonMP3 (UK Only)

SWANS shows & tickets


  • Swans + Pharmakon at Ancienne Belgique, Brussels on 25 Sep 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Paradiso, Amsterdam on 26 Sep 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at La Maroquinerie, Paris on 27 Sep 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at La Maroquinerie, Paris on 28 Sep 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at La Sirène, La Rochelle on 30 Sep 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Sala Apolo, Barcelona on 1 Oct 2014
  • 981Heritage - Swans on 2 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon + Ainara Legardon at Plateruena, Durango on 3 Oct 2014
  • Amplifest 2014 on 4 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at La Coopérative de Mai, Clermont-Ferrand on 6 Oct 2014
  • SWANS (US) on 7 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Grabenhalle, St. Gallen on 8 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Hiroshima Mon Amour, Torino on 9 Oct 2014
  • Swans at Estragon, Bologna on 10 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Circolo degli Artisti, Lazio on 11 Oct 2014
  • Unsound Festival 2014 on 12 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Alcatraz, Milano on 12 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Pogon JEDINSTVO, Zagreb on 14 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at A38, Budapest on 15 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Kino Siska, Ljubljana on 16 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Arena, Wien on 17 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Lucerna Music Bar, Praha on 20 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Berghain/Panorama Bar, Berlin on 21 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Berghain/Panorama Bar, Berlin on 22 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Schauspiel Leipzig, Centraltheater, Leipzig on 23 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Gebäude 9, Köln on 24 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Musikzentrum, Hannover on 25 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Kampnagel, Hamburg on 27 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at BeatPol, Dresden on 29 Oct 2014
  • Swans + Pharmakon at Schlachthof, Wiesbaden on 30 Oct 2014

SWANS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SWANS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.89 | 17 ratings
Filth
1983
3.30 | 14 ratings
Cop
1984
3.10 | 11 ratings
Greed
1986
3.83 | 11 ratings
Holy Money
1986
4.51 | 22 ratings
Children of God
1987
3.33 | 12 ratings
The Burning World
1989
4.07 | 15 ratings
White Light From the Mouth of Infinity
1991
3.40 | 10 ratings
Love of Life
1992
4.13 | 16 ratings
The Great Annihilator
1995
4.23 | 20 ratings
Soundtracks for the Blind
1996
3.88 | 17 ratings
My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
2010
4.02 | 59 ratings
The Seer
2012
3.81 | 59 ratings
To Be Kind
2014

SWANS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 6 ratings
Public Castration is a Good Idea
1986
3.00 | 4 ratings
Feel Good Now
1987
4.50 | 2 ratings
Anonymous Bodies in an Empty Room
1990
5.00 | 1 ratings
Real Love
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Omniscience
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Kill the Child: 1985/1986/1987 Live
1995
4.00 | 4 ratings
Swans Are Dead
1998
4.00 | 6 ratings
We Rose From Your Bed with the Sun in Our Head
2012
4.00 | 6 ratings
Not Here / Not Now
2013

SWANS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SWANS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.95 | 2 ratings
Body to Body, Job to Job
1991
4.00 | 3 ratings
Various Failures 1988-1992
1999
0.00 | 0 ratings
Forever Burned
2003

SWANS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 4 ratings
Swans
1982
3.00 | 3 ratings
Young God
1984
3.09 | 3 ratings
A Screw
1986
3.00 | 2 ratings
Time Is Money (Bastard)
1986
4.00 | 2 ratings
Die Tür ist zu
1996

SWANS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Children of God by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.51 | 22 ratings

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Children of God
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars The 'prog' versus 'progressive' label has never hit home to me more than this release. Children Of God, to me, is not only one of the best albums I've ever heard, but also one of the most important in regards to my own development as a fan of rock music itself. Decades later, there's been no shortage of bands incorporating styles akin to certain tracks off this album and even developing them further, but back in 1987 this release was such a unique beast for its time, equal parts beautiful and monstrous...unlike anything I was used to.

The most obvious development of the band at this point was the increase in Jarboe's presence vocally, as well as the haunting ballads interspersed throughout the album. Heavy industrial sounding monolith "New Mind" is followed by the ethereal yet eventually eerie piece "In My Garden", proclaiming this album to be an experience in which how the next track will sound would be anyone's guess. I was hooked by this point during my inception by this time.

There are two different versions of "Our Love Lies" that I know of, in which the original heavy bluesy Caroline Records version that I own on cassette is superior to the more folksy version found on re-releases. Hopefully, subsequent re-releases will retrieve the original version to its rightful place within this album.

About the instrumentation...it's perfect in establishing a mood in an almost trance-like way, not as something to scrutinize technically. That isn't important here, but the compositions themselves are worthy of praise for their unsettling nature. From the haunting creepiness of the Jarboe sung "Blood And Honey" to the ferocious pulpit bombast of "Beautiful Child" to the tranquil beauty of "Blackmail", there's such variety of sounds and ideas going on while maintaining an almost singular theme that its almost hard to believe that the band were able to pull this off without coming across like a band in transition. They weren't. SWANS were on fire at this point. Just about everything mattered, with only "Like A Drug" being a bit off-putting to me, but not enough to lesson the overall power of this release and all of its sublime qualities.

In 1987 my musical interests had shifted so far away from the prog rock I was into during the early 80's to crossover thrash metal to such an extent that I was due for something different, and Children Of God was my catalyst. Not only did I embrace this album, I drifted into non-metal music that retained a gloomy aura and subsequently even branched out into delicate music in general as well as other forms of rock that I had ditched for a few years. Floyd became relevant again, and while I never stopped listening to metal...in fact I delved deeper to the more extreme side of things (in which early SWANS stuff arguably could be seen as an influence), my interest in progressive and experimental styles of music went ballistic in the late 80's and continues to this day.

Outside of my own personal growth, the merits of this album may be a little off-putting for some, but the creative aspects involved in this recording shouldn't be denied. Gira based his boisterous vocals on Southern preachers and the effects these fire and brimstone preaching types held over their congregation, and he pulls it off with aplomb, matched by Jarboe's unnerving vibrato.

Equal parts venomous and tranquil, Children Of God remains my favorite album of there's, and while each tune carries a sort of pin-pointed impact, as a whole this album captures a lot of emotions and atmosphere that very few have equaled in my own experience while growing up in the 80's, and it resonates strongly still whenever I feel the urge for the primal currents of power, fear, glory and destitution that surge throughout this opus. Whether it's essential or not is your decision, but to me it's a masterpiece regardless of whatever terminology of "progressive" one chooses to utilize.

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 Cop by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.30 | 14 ratings

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Cop
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Dobermensch

3 stars 'Cop' sounds like black metal in slow motion. Like watching a train crash frame by frame on slow play DVD. It's Swans most extreme recording by a long way where Roli Mosimann's drums hammer over and over driving nails into your skull as both guitarists screech out the most unpleasant dirge you're likely to hear this side of Sirius. Everything bar the vocals sounds like it's being played at half speed. And the drums are loud. Really loud! Not only that but they constantly have a heavy decay and booming effect throughout.

Coupled with Gira's gut wrenching wails and gutteral utterings, it's one of the most intense albums you're likely to find in the Prog Archives. The doubled vocal tracks certainly lifts this immeasurably and leaves it sounding greater than the sum of its parts.

This is Swans just before Jarboe (female singer) joined, where everything sounds soaked in male testosterone and sweat. A nasty, brutal and uncompromising album from beginning to end. Beware: if you're looking for something uplifting with musical finesse look far, far away from 'Cop'.

This is serial killer soundtrack material. A feeling of hopelessness and and anger is present from the outset - and it's pretty much relentless. You're unlikely to hear such self loathing on any recording from '84 to present day.

Quite honestly though, there's nothing that sounds like 'Cop' anywhere and that's why I have a fair amount affinity with it. The confrontational angst which runs throughout will be more than most sensible or normal folks can handle. Thankfully, I'm not normal nor sensible, therefore it hits all the happy buttons with me. A cathartic experience for anyone's mind that is full of dark ugly thoughts.

My personal favourite track is 'Clay Man' - replete with growling, shouted vocals amidst a one chord thumped bass note that is enough to make you think that Michael Gira has his hands in someone's entrails with a face covered in blood as he spits and wrenches out lyrics such as 'Your flesh is easy, your flesh is soft, the shame, the shame'. Sledgehammer drums with echoed high hats only add to the disturbing atmosphere. Scary biscuits indeed!

There's no light at the end of this long dark tunnel. Goodness knows who I can recommend this to. It's just too extreme and heavy for this website, but I'm glad it's here.

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 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.81 | 59 ratings

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To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by arcane-beautiful

4 stars Swans are a band that I've let fly past me these past few years. Now don't blame me personally, it's just I have a mixed opinion about Pitchfork relate artists or hipster worthy bands (sometimes they are a bit too much style and not enough music). So after all this time, I have decided to give this band a chance. And of course, I'm glad I have.

If I had to describe this band to anyone, the best way to sum them up would be if The Velvet Underground where to jam with Captain Beefheart and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. The band also have a rather Pixies take to their music, with a big focus on the loud and quiet dynamic of their music. The band have a brilliant ability of being able to take minimalist riffs and ideas, yet building upon them into big climaxes or to something completely different entirely.

While the album is mainly music, one thing I really love about this album is that the lyrics are very simple and almost mono syllabic at times. While the songs titles and music already paint a picture in your head, the lyrics are almost their to portray instantaneous emotions rather than telling actual stories.

The opening track "Screen Shot" is a brilliant example of what the band can do. With a soft start and a climactic build up, the soft to hard style of the bands classic stuff is shown. Brilliant start to the album.

"A Little God In My Hands" is another personal favorite of mine. The best way to describe this song is if the Pixies where to jam with Captain Beefheart and Current 93. A brilliant track with some absolutely brilliant vocals from Michael, showing off some insane vocals.

The album's longest track and the bands longest song to date, "Bring The Sun/Touissant L'Ouverture" is a massive piece of music. A multi layered and multi parted track, the song goes through a lot of different feelings and emotions. Starting off with a post metal opening and going into a psychedelic jam, it then explodes into a noisy chasm and then moves into a slow jam with Michael shouting and raving in both French and Spanish. Now, being over a half an hour long, I do believe that this song is pushing it a little bit, but I still think the experience of this track is a rollercoaster that is an interesting experience nontheless.

The album's second longest track "She Loves Us" is another interesting moment on the album. The song being rather slow in nature at first, it then explodes into a sonic wall with Michael screaming over the music with overly sexual suggested lyrics. Mad as a hatter, but it perfectly fits with the chaotic nature of the album.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album has to be "Kirsten Supine." Taking influence from Lars Von Trier's film "Melancholia", the song shows of some rather delicate yet explosive sounds, very much like the film it was inspired by.

My favorite track on the album has to be "Oxygen." With a mad mash of different rhythms throughout and some incredibly insane vocals from Michael. For some reason I am getting a Smashing Pumpkins vibe from this track, especially with the breakdowns with only vocals and drums.

The title track which ends off the album is an interesting anti folk influenced sonic build up. Some lovely instrumental work on this track showing off some of Swans instrumental technique, before becoming more dark and twisted near the end of the track.

In conclusion, this album shows off the bands styles and sounds in ways which have bettered their previous releases. While some songs may be a bit too lengthy and outstay their welcome a tad too much,, you can't deny that journey that some of these tracks take you on. A good example of a long double album not being exceedingly boring. These guys will always excite.

8.3/10

Genres: Experimental Rock, Noise Rock, Avant Garde Rock, RIO, Post Metal, Avant Garde Metal, Post Rock, Anti Folk, Art Rock, Progressive Rock

Country of origin: USA

Year of release: 2014

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 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.81 | 59 ratings

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To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Aldebaran_Well

5 stars Swans deliver their strange and unique art since 1983, having gained a place amongst the most important avant garde rock artist of all time. They have widely influenced countless great bands, ranging from Neurosis to Portishead, always enjoying the utmost respect from artists and critics but, somehow, since their reform in 2010, people also show a more massive interest in their work. Their 2012 ''The Seer'' album had a tremendous feedback, featuring in numerous top lists of the year. For reasons I can't guess, the world of music seems at last ready for the Swans' vision. Just one listen is enough to make me wonder how that's even possible. You see, from many aspects, this music is as extreme and elitistic as it gets.

''To be kind'' steps on the same road as ''The seer'': the same 2 hour long odyssey, theatrically set around the dominating personality of the singer, composer, leader, producer, mastermind Michael Gira. By him stands a full cast of 12 guest musicians, all exquisite experimental artists, performing a wide range of instruments and his 5 bandmates, obviously of the same charismatic/deranged nature. Gira himself certainly sounds like an actor who's constantly changing roles, those of a philosopher, a preacher, a shaman, or a madman and the music is built around his breathtaking performances. A bigger than life persona that no ink can describe.

The music of Swans is impossible to be categorized. On the surface of things, there are elements of noise, industrial, folk, punk, post, psych, drone, rock, jazz, dark wave etc. All these are just words that we have all created to communicate and put boundaries on things, only words. Swans don't fit inside these words, they stand way beyond genres, unlimited and transcendental. Sound is only the medium and it doesn't matter much really. It's all about feelings, mind and soul states. I can't tell what Swans sound like but I can tell you what it feels like. It feels like one is diving into the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean, alone, in a moonless night. Or like opening a mental gate to the unknown. The listener must realize that once this gate is opened, he enters at his own risk. If I tried to describe the ''songwriting'' patterns, I'd say that every song is an independent ride and that it feels like a ritual. Stepping into the circle, one discovers linear compositions, straightly structured and monotonous. All frequencies/instruments are not used to enrich music harmonically but to build tensions and moods to the point of colossal crescendos. The way music evolves will make you wonder whether time and sound actually move or stand still. You may often feel like suffocating inside compositions that seemingly never end and when they finally do, you'll probably want more.

A very brief insight on the album tracks. Disc 1, total running time of 67 minutes. ''Screen shots'' kicks off the album with a hypnotizing Tool on drugs like riff, impressively crafted drum and percussion grooves that form a blurred industrial rites of passage, without ever relieving tension. ''Just a little boy'' is an anthem of twisted, stoned Americana that could perfectly fit to David Lunch's nightmares on films like Inland Empire. The ''Oh my God'' guitars in the final part sound heavier than a whole planet. ''A little God in my hands'' is surprisingly straight, a tune that could have been composed by Marilyn Manson (if he was a genius). The song is very energetic, there is a glimpse of melody but then brass instruments step in, producing a delirium of noise. At the end of the song, don't imagine the guitarist smashing down his guitar. It might just as well be the trombone player. Now, even a poet wouldn't find the right words for the 34 minutes long ''Bring the sun/Toussaint l'Ouverture'', which is the heart and the absolute highlight of the whole album. This is a song so huge, it almost sounds biblical. ''Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite'' cries a completely out of control Gira in the second part and the band sounds capable of swallowing the whole universe. No right words. After that, they wisely decide to end the first disc with ''Some things we do'', a quite calm and sarcastic comment on human nature, based on abstract strings and the additional female voice of Little Annie.

Disc 2, total running time 55 minutes. ''She loves us!'' is a 17 minutes epic with a very naturalistic, religious touch on it. It has a tribal character with fantastic percussion and a strong scent of improvisation, while Michael's howling vocals and the up tempo groove make it sound like an ecstatic prayer. The beautiful ''Kirsten Supine'' is melodic in comparison, you can almost sing along and it contains a wonderful climax. ''Oxygen'' is another surprise, it begins with nu rock attitude, evolves aggressively and ends with the presence of brass, in a distorted jazz atmosphere. ''Nathalie Neal'' is next in line, changing the mood again. In this track you'll find many ethnic elements, it's very straight and you can practically dance to it. The second part of the song offers the enjoyment of acoustic guitars in a very atmospheric psych finale which is preserved on the album's title track and closing song: ''To be kind'' is a magnificent tune, ambient and folk walk hand in hand until the explosive, destructive end where all energy is finally spent.

Famous Greek writer, Nick Kazantzakis (highly recommended) used to say that the human soul is simultaneously making two oppositional movements: one upwards is aiming to the sky, immortality and high ideals and one movement downwards, to the earth, to death, corruption and decay. The music of Swans feels like ever descending. It's decadent and appeals to the darkest instincts but can be majestic at the same time. It can be animalistic and sexy, depressive and grandiose. It's the musical equivalent to Lynch or even Pasolini films, de Sade's poetry or Bacon's paintings.

According to my rating system, this is a 94/100 album, so I have to give it five stars. That does not mean I recommend it to all progsters. In fact, a prog fan can find it equally awkward to a pop, rock or blues fan. This is not prog. This is rewarding avant garde music which somehow finds the way to be part of the wider pop/rock culture.

Gira once said about his band's name that ''Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments.'' Well, you can be sure that these are by far the ugliest and more majestic swans you will ever meet!

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 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.81 | 59 ratings

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To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Dobermensch

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 poor 'My Father Will Guide me up a Rope to Heaven', and 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 even than noise bands '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 upon layer, block on block building to a 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 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 nastiness. This is one seriously pissed off album folks.

'Just a Little Boy' sounds almost 'Captain Beefheart' and 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 monstrous 34 minute epic 'Bring the Sun ' which has 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 gargantuan build up a lot of weird effects occur at 17 mins. It's particularly disturbing as it appears to be close up mic recordings of horses in distress, being crystal clear and at the forefront. 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 thumping drums, bass and guitar squeals.

'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.

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 To Be Kind by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.81 | 59 ratings

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To Be Kind
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Sheets of Blue

5 stars In typical fashion, the hype for To Be Kind has been unbelievable over the last few months. A leak (an extremely poor one to say the least) has come and gone, and at last, the album has finally arrived. When it was announced that it would be another two hour long behemoth of an album, many had doubts that it could possibly approach the extreme heights that its predecessor, The Seer, had scaled merely two years earlier.. But upon first listen, it is only another Swans album, and doesn't bear much resemblance to its predecessor except in length. To Be Kind is something to beware, to approach with caution if you are only accustomed to its predecessor.

If you were expecting more chanting and atmospheric drones, you are quite mistaken. Instead, the album's opener Screen Shot starts off with a driven percussion section and a simplistic guitar riff accompanied by Michael Gira's familiar smooth but robust vocal delivery. Slowly and menacingly, the track builds up further and further with more audible sections coming in to add to the main spectacle. Whereas on The Seer which was filled to the brim with tribal-like sections that dominated the album, they take the side-stage on here. To be replaced by what? Gone are the drones in favor of an ominous atmosphere and rather ambient segments that take the helm of To Be Kind, in such tracks as Just a Little Boy and Nathalie Neal. The influence of Pink Floyd's Set the Controls to the Heart of the Sun and many blues musicians can be heard on both tracks.

On about every Swans LP, from Public Castration is a Good Idea to Soundtracks for the Blind, there is always a challenge awaiting the listener in how much they can withstand and little musical bits and pieces that exceed the standard of many others. On the former, it was a battle of noise and violent feedback, the latter was not only the length, but the highly diverse genres included in the album which included simple drone pieces to intricate electronic tracks. Here, the battle is once again in the way the songs are structured and how they are performed. On She Loves Us and A Little God in My Hands, both start unusually, with a driving beat to the former and a fiercely relaxed rhythm section in the latter. Both have the typical Gira vocal performances, with lyrics like:

Your name is [%*!#]! Halleluiah and the simplistic Oh sucking lung: we'll never come/forever loving, forever waiting/oh yeah oh yeah/the universal mind

Both tracks eventually end in the way Swans usually ends their songs, either with a bang or a weakening fadeaway that gives way to the next piece of the puzzle.

With a unique rhythm and blues flavour, Oxygen harkens back to the olden no-wave days of Filth and Holy Money, where brutality reigned supreme in Swans' repertoire. With the cries of the namesake, the track is unrelenting at the very start and doesn't let up for one single second. Not once will you get a breather, and while at the mercy of Michael Gira, you'll be struggling for oxygen. The vibe that is given off besides the nostalgic no-wave Swans sound is the throbs of industrial music such as Ministry, which only adds to the power of the track. But at once, it stops. Gira gives one of his most stunning vocal deliveries, building up the tension with his simplistic, but powerful lyrics. The cry of Feed me now! brings the whole thing descending into chaos taking over as a brass section comes to prominence as Gira continues his cries:

Hey there/Mr. Skull/I'm not scared of your cull/Oxygen: Amen!

The anguished rage at last comes to a standstill and takes its final gasps, each final one a swift kick to the solar plexus and a deep stab wound in the heart before the brutal assault ends.

The crown jewel in To Be Kind without a doubt, is the thirty-five minute epic Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture. At first look, it seems as Michael Gira just doesn't know when to stop with the obnoxiously long songs, but once the track begins, it quickly lures you in with the alluring atmosphere reminiscent once again of Pink Floyd and other ambient artists. The buildup is flawless, starting with Gira murmuring, eventually shouting the namesake as done earlier in Oxygen. But as the second half of the suite, Toussaint L'Ouverture emerges from the chants, everything comes to a halt. It is as if the whole first half never existed, with the tale of Toussaint L'Ouverture dimishing everything that came before it. Born as a slave, L'Ouverture led the Haitian revolution against the French before being sent to prison and subsequently dying there. Gira somehow adds the mystique of Swans to the old tale and for dramatic effect, cries out:

Toussaint! L'Ouverture!

An unfortunate dilemma with the second half is that is just falls flat not long after its climax, trudging along for a few minutes before somehow recapturing the listener's interest. But by then, the track is nearing its end.

To Be Kind is not just an exercise in futility, but in durability as well. It tests the listener with all of its will, and holds them at its mercy for two hours straight. In all honesty, it's magnificent how Swans is able to release two top-tier albums in the span of two years, especially when they total 4+ hours. It's no easy feat to say the least. A undeniable candidate for the album of the year, To Be Kind is worthy of the Swans name. It irons out the weaknesses found in The Seer and My Father?, and strengthens upon the aspects of the respective albums. To be kind, keep it up you guys.

Highlights:

Screen Shot A Little God in My Hands Bring the Sun/Toussaint L'Ouverture She Loves Us Oxygen

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 Swans Are Dead by SWANS album cover Live, 1998
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Swans Are Dead
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars This 2 CD package served as official notice that the Swans were no more, following their 1997 opus Soundtracks for the Blind. This is a live album documenting two different tours - disc one is from 1997 and disc two is from 1995 (the latter promoting the Great Annihilator album). The Swans sound has always relied upon space - with each sound they make seeming to have a certain size and mass, such is the physicality of their music. For this reason, I've always thought that live albums generally do a better job at capturing their sound - for just about any era of their music, I've found a live album that gets a lot more plays than the studio albums they surround. And so, this live album for me supplants the mid to late 90s Swans material, the period during which what would be known as "post-rock" was a significant part of their sound. And since that genre of music is so reliant upon space anyway, all the more reason to hear this album to see just how huge the Swans could be.

The 1997 disc opens, as do many of their concerts, with a very long, slowly building piece: in this case "Feel Happiness", a track I don't think appears on any other Swans album. Then "Low Life Form" shows us a Swans rendition of a Michael Gira solo song (released on Drainland, well worth checking out). We also get a Jarboe solo song ("Hypogirl") and a couple of Great Annihilator songs. The closer, "Blood Promise", is greatly extended and far different from its studio counterpart, offering another of their by now common depression epics.

The 1995 disc has, oddly enough, a focus on 1997 material, or at least material that would form the backbone of 1997's Soundtracks for the Blind: "The Sound", "The Final Sacrifice", and "Helpless Child" are all here, as awesome as you'd hope, and together take up nearly 40 minutes of the show. Jarboe once again takes a few solo spots as well. Sound quality for both shows is excellent.

If I could only recommend one 1990s Swans album, this would be it. It doesn't really hit the early 90s material at all, nor the Burning World period, but I'm personally okay with that, there are other live albums covering that period. There's a live Swans album for almost any occasion, in fact. And Gira can keep putting out live albums and I'll be a happy guy - he also understands that the passion the band puts out on stage is just not something that comes off the same way in the studio, not for them at least.

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 Body to Body, Job to Job by SWANS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1991
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Body to Body, Job to Job
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams

4 stars This album functions as part live album, part outtakes compilation. Since it is now available only as part of a package deal with Swans' debut LP "Filth" (a 2 CD reissue on Young God Records, led by Swans leader M. Gira), there is a tendency to think of it as an afterthought, or at least secondary to the "proper" albums in the vast Swans discography. However, for me anyway, this album does a better job than any other of capturing the magic of the early Swans, and if "The Seer" is my clear favorite album from the "new" Swans, then this album is my clear favorite from the "old" Swans.

But how can Odds and Sods be better than Quadrophenia? It may be a purely personal thing for me, but this album is compiled in such a way that it knocks you on your behind and then proceeds to kick you in the stomach until you can't take it anymore, and then it kicks you some more until you're simply numb and don't care anymore. Swans studio albums from the same era at least have some sense of craft and pacing -- this album disregards any notion of pacing and offers highlight after highlight, each punishment more brutal than the last. Sounds like loads of fun, doesn't it?

Many of these tracks are alternate, re-named, or live versions of songs from the early albums Filth and Cop,. but almost without exception, the versions are more powerful and punishing, albeit more sloppy and with murkier sound quality. The opener "I'll Cry for You" is clearly a studio recording (and a great one), but most of the rest seems to be compiled from live shows. But it feels as if the most primal moments of a dozen different Swans shows were all documented in one place, making it a dream live album of sorts. I don't want to go track by track here, because I would just say the same thing about each track -- it's monotonous, horrific, grinding, so overdriven that the CD almost strains to capture the volume of sound. I've often described their sound as the sound of an electric guitar and bass being thrown against a brick wall. Lots of pounding, lots of screaming, the unfiltered rage of a man trying by brute force to understand this beautiful/ugly world we live in, by the only means he has left: spilling out his last remains of pure animal energy.

If you, like I, can find the beauty behind such musical strategies (and it is very tightly structured and composed, make no mistake), then the early Swans are for you. If my description repulses you, then you can turn back now, and I will have done my job.

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 Time Is Money (Bastard) by SWANS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1986
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Time Is Money (Bastard)
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Technically the first release of the 'dollar sign' era, this EP marks the transition from the pummeling sludge of their Cop/Young God days to their equally dark yet more industrial and experimental explorations. "Time Is Money (Bastard)" opens violently with a looped nail-gun resonating like a jack-hammer while Jarboe screams like a banshee before the song segues into a rhythmic, danceable clamor. This would be Jarboe's memorable introduction to her presence in the band, but only later would her role really expand regarding their work. Ronaldo Gonzalez's live drums combine with Gira's programming to make for one hell of a cool percussive racket while he recites some of his most provocative lyrics in a ferocious manner. Rarely has he ever sounded this angry and unhinged.

The 'mix' version of this song can also be found here, with an extended length and some alterations, including the lack of Jarboe's caterwauls. A slightly shortened version of this track is what can be found on reissues and compilations concerning the Greed/Holy Money era. It actually bugs me that some versions of their early songs on their original releases are so hard to come by these days, with the reissues changing certain things up and omitting a couple of tunes.

The other track, "Sealed In Skin", is more of a slow ominous dirge, in which Gira uses a deep low voice, which was actually rather novel at the time. Even more notable was the strong presence of a piano carrying the tune along with the drums, in which this was apparently the first time a piano was used in their music.

It's an interesting release in that it bridges the changes the band was undergoing while still possessing plenty of harrowing characteristics, particularly the original rendition of the title track. Certainly something to check out for those interested into digging into the band's 80's material.

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 Holy Money by SWANS album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.83 | 11 ratings

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Holy Money
Swans Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Holy Money should be considered as a sister album of Greed rather than a successor since these songs were recorded during the same sessions as the band's prior release. I also think it's generally a superior album due to a couple of stunners plus alternate takes on a couple of Greed tracks in which I find these Holy Money versions more fleshed out and preferable.

"Fool", sparse yet effective in Greed as an opener, is now amped up with pounding drums and more bombastic guitarwork that almost comes across like some deranged take on Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh". The lyrics are still clear and freakish, an important part of the 'dollar sign' era. "Money Is Flesh" (I find myself saying "flesh" a lot here) also utilizes more percussion to add an extra layer to that monstrous industrial swing effect. This is the version generally heard regarding reissues and compilations.

"A Hanging" opens things on a pretty grim note, featuring Jarboe's ceremonial wailing while Gira dishes out some humdinger prose.

"Dear God in Heaven, I'll hang for you."

The music has that clanging industrial vibe, and eventually finishes with a storm of tribalistic drumming. I always thought it would make for an unforgettable 'walk down the aisle' wedding tune. The version of "A Screw" found here is creepy with the pulsing industrial throb juxtaposed with menacing whispering vocals and the eventual chanting also found on the single versions.

Jarboe actually gets a tune of her own this time around, "You Need Me", although it plays more like an interlude, or a brief oasis between two shambling behemoths. Eerie yet pretty.

As I mentioned before, there are a couple of doozies. "Coward" is similar in style musically to Greed's "Anything For You", but more provocative and punishingly depressing. The corker though is one of my all-time favorite SWAN tracks, "Another You". The inclusion of a harmonica in this venomous dirge adds a whole new element, like a boat tour through the deepest, murkiest, most alligator-ridden swamp in the bayou led by a lunatic. Halfway through the song the guitars & bass go bonkers while cavernous moans slink there way into the music, as if things couldn't get darker. This monster tapers off with the repeated line "I should have hurt you". Brilliant.

I can't deny that Greed has some memorable beasts lurking within, but overall I think Holy Money got the better batch of tunes in the end, as it's a bit heavier and no less depraved.

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Thanks to angelmk for the artist addition.

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