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Swans Holy Money album cover
3.51 | 46 ratings | 4 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1986

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Hanging (5:48)
2. You Need Me (1:23)
3. Fool (#2) (5:54)
4. A Screw (Holy Money) (5:00)
5. Another You (7:43)
6. Money Is Flesh (#2) (5:02)
7. Coward (5:10)

Total time 36:00

Bonus tracks on 1987 CD release:
8. A Screw (Holy Money) (Mix) (5:41)
9. Blackmail (4:54)
10. A Screw (5:00)

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Gira / vocals, piano, sampler, bass, "sounds", production
- (Jane) Jarboe / vocals (1,2)
- Norman Westberg / guitar
- Harry Crosby / bass (3,5,7)
- Algis Kizys / bass (1,4)
- Ronald Gonzalez / drums (1,5-7)
- Ted Parsons / drums (1,4)
- Ivan Nahem / drums (3)

Releases information

Artwork: Paul White @ ME Company with M. Gira (design)

LP K.422 ‎- KCC 3 (1986, UK)

CD K.422 ‎- CDKCC 3 (1987, UK) With 3 bonus tracks from "A Screw" Single

Thanks to The Truth for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SWANS Holy Money ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (40%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SWANS Holy Money reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is the last full album in the Swans dollar sign series. This, just like all the previous albums, is very dirge-like and brutal throughout. It takes you down into the depths of the muddiest swamps of depression and darkness. Early Swans music is known for being the most brutal music out there, and this album is no exception to that. But you also begin to hear a little more experimentation in the music in this album, and you also get a short interlude sung by Jarboe ("You Need Me"), who would from this point forward have more of an influence in the overall sound of the music in the subsequent albums. This acts as a quick break in the otherwise extreme sound of this album.

But in the tracks like "A Hanging" and "Fool #2", you also hear a break away from the constant rhythm that usually would establish itself in previous Swans tracks and would remain mostly unchanging throughout each track. In this album, the rhythm, ground line and guitar follows a repetitive pattern as before, but now the sound will suddenly change mid-track, showing the band's new penchant for exploring sounds and possibilities in their music.

The album still features unrelenting heavy and depressing music and was considered post-punk at the time. At this point though, you will start hearing experimentation into post and math rock, and this works to this albums advantage and at even greater levels in future albums. As for now, most people will still find this music too heavy, but it is better than previous efforts as some variety and experimentation starts to show through. The music is better quality and the band shows interest in exploring new musical avenues. Of all the heavy, industrial sounding post punk albums from Swans, this one is the one I consider the best. This is a good introduction to the earlier discography, if you are inclined to explore this music that lives in the depths of dark human souls. 4 stars.

Review by Dobermensch
3 stars It can't have been a bundle of laughs on board the 'Swans' train while recording this. 'Holy Money' sounds like it's being played and sung by the undead from 'Zombie Flesh Eaters'. It's a heavy and bleak dirge despite the occasional Jarboe female vocals.

I guess it's good for clearing unwanted guests from a late night party as those irritating stragglers hang about chatting 10 feet from the door. The atmosphere is oppressive as you'd expect, but it's less of a barrage with a bit of space to breathe compared to their first recordings. And that's not necessarily a good thing...

'Holy Money' like its predecessor 'Greed' is certainly no uplifting experience and lacks the density and violence of those first two excellent sledgehammer albums. In saying that, there is the rather impressive 'A Screw'. Spoken, rather than shouted lyrics are wrapped around a hugely repetitive and heavy stomping drum sequence.

This is one of the first 'Swans' recordings I bought and I was as unimpressed then as I am now 22 years later. It's one of those albums that just rubs me up the wrong way. I find it something of an an annoyance to sit through in its entirety. It's too 'dead'.

The only truly great song is the battering 'Money is Flesh', with its superb jackhammer drums and repetitive lyrics. It's real heavy stuff listeners... and almost guitar free. Michael Gira sounds so much more acceptable to my damaged ears when he's screaming, spitting blood and spouting venom.

Jarboe's 'Blackmail' is a jarring oddity which may well have fit on a different recording. The soft piano and pretty vocal style is totally at odds with bulk of 'Holy Money'. It's like trying to put on a pair of gloves that have four fingers. Annoying.

I'm in a generous mood and full of gin and orange, and therefore find it hard to give it any less than 3 stars. It was a close run thing though.

Review by Kempokid
3 stars From first listen, it becomes highly apparent that 'Greed' and 'Holy Money' were both recorded in the same sessions, as both have a very empty, distant sound to them, with much of the intensity coming from the emotions, rather than the music itself, which is very heavy, but nowhere near as nasty sounding as their first 2 albums. On top of this, what makes it even more apparent is the fact that 2 of the tracks are just remade versions of songs from 'Greed'. I personally find this album to have much less impact and also be generally of lower quality.

The opener, as is common with 'Swans'' early work, is one of the highlights of the album, making effective use of Jarboe's vocals to create a sound similar to some sort of twisted gospel piece. I particularly love how this is juxtaposed by Gira's standard, deep, moaning voice, creating excellent contrast and making the song sufficiently dark. The outro is also quite notable, with some almost tribal drumming coming through in a short burst of energy, all before petering out and transitioning into 'You Need Me'. This song is the first time we're introduced to Jarboe's vocals in a way where they're actually used as vocals, rather than as an instrument. The song acts somewhat as a precursor to the quieter songs from 'Children Of God' but is overall not quite as good as those, lacking some of the haunting beauty that made songs like 'In Your Garden' so good. 'Fool (#2)' is the first big problem with the album, being an inferior version of 'Greed's' version by adding percussion and a higher prominence of guitars. What made the original so great to me was the unique, eerie atmosphere caused by the lack of usual instruments and it being almost entirely piano driven, which is taken away here and ends up being supremely mediocre. 'A Screw (Holy Money)' stands up much better, being honestly quite a groovy sounding track with some really cool vocal chanting, giving it a fairly unique sound, being much less brutal in any particular way and being somewhat more palatable than usual. 'Another You' is another song that I'm not a fan of, as I do find it to be overlong and not particularly interesting, being another song that's really just mediocre all around. 'Money Is Flesh (#2)' has very little differences from the original,and still sounds just as great as it did on 'Greed', although I can't really say I like it being here, since it's essentially just reusing a track. 'Coward' is definitely one of the best tracks here, with excellent mixing on the vocals, with the unsettling repetition of the phrase "I'm worthless" echoing intensely while various yells are in the background, as a minimalistic beat drives the song.

This is a good album on the whole, despite the couple of issues I have with it, as the overall sound is still dripping with emotion and the depressive angst of 'Greed', combined with an excellently distant, dark, extremely heavy sound. However, the issues the album has definitely do drag it down to some extent, and I find this album in general to be less interesting in its experimentation compared to the aforementioned 'Greed', which ultimately overshadows it.

Best Songs: A Hanging, Coward

Worst Songs: Fool (#2), Money Is Flesh (#2), Another You

Verdict: If you liked Greed, then you're almost certain to like this, as they are extremely similar in both tone and sound. I do personally prefer Greed, but this is nonetheless a fairly good album all around.

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