Reviewed by Gird_09
Bauhaus, Throbbing Gristle, Monte Cazazza, Skinny Puppy, Sex Pistols, Burzum and now SWANS. All of these are names that have been absent for a long time, and then reappeared. Beatles even released music long after their original demise, and Elvis Presley defied the grave to release new material as did Jimi Hendrix. Few events create more buzz than the reunion, or in this case, reactivation of a favored musical venture. Unfortunately they also usually create a great deal of disappointment, fan rage and the realization that there was a reason the band or name was retired in the first place. Bauhaus and Sex Pistols should've stayed dead. Skinny Puppy too I would say. But not all comebacks are bad. Monte Cazazza and Burzum are examples of projects that came back with something to say and the original sentiment more or less intact. Which one is SWANS?
I have been madly in love with SWANS for such a long time. When the band split up and released "swans are dead" it felt to me a part of music itself died. Counting the hours I've spent listening to their various releases, or searching for them in stores would produce quite a number. The messiah can piss on his father and fuck his mother up the ass - all I want is SWANS. I remember the first time I heard SWANS, what track, what time of day it was and where I was. When I heard Gira was reactivating the project my fanboy heart nearly stopped working permanently.
You can see the level of expectations I have, and please keep this in mind while reading the review.
My immediate reaction upon popping the cd in the player was "Yes this is SWANS." I had been afraid that it would sound like an Angels of Light album, under the SWANS name. However, after listening for a few minutes the initial enthusiasm diminished somewhat. Something was missing. The arrangements, instrumentation and musicians are clearly set in a SWANS context, but I couldn't free myself of the Angels of Light frame. In many ways it sounded like SWANS covering Angels.
I don't expect SWANS to sound like SWANS did in 1996, or 1983, or whatever. SWANS has always been about change and growth and I appreciate that very much. But thematically the band was always about extreme discipline, submission and self hatred - both in content and style. My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky is a little too garagy and the lyrical content on many of the tracks is more along the line of Gira's later outputs. I don't mind any of this, but I don't think it's entirely SWANS. The strictness and clearness of the production is missing.
Tracks like "You Fucking People Make me Sick" and Inside Madeline are the ones that come closest to the massively towering totalitarian music of earlier releases. Most specifically they remind me of some of the moments on "White Light..." or "Love of Life". All in all the four last tracks are the ones that sit best with me after the first listen, while "Reeling the Liars in" and "Jim" doesn't do it for me. The tracks that are good are really good however, and easily worth the money on their own.
I also have to say that I do miss the softness Jarboe provided, as a contrast to the intensity of Gira. While I realize that she was not present for the first albums, and that those albums are very good - she was there for so many years, and certainly a formative presence. I have complete faith in Gira's ability to pull it off without her, and I would in no way expect her to be a part of the reformed band, but her presence is still missed.
Chances are if you've never heard SWANS, or heard very little this album will impress you a great deal. However, if you're a huge fan it can go either way. You might love it, and you might be disappointed. There is however no doubt that the review I read the other day, which said this could possibly be the best SWANS album ever was dead wrong. This album can in no way compete with Children of God, Love of Life, Filth, Holy Money, Greed or any other of the now classical albums. I realize the comparison is unfair, but I have to be honest. I'm not sure I feel SWANS are back, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
USA, CD album, Young God Records, 2010
1. No Words/No Thoughts (9:24)
2. Reeling The Liars In (2:20)
3. Jim (6:46)
4. My Birth (3:52)
5. You Fucking People Make Me Sick (5:08)
6. Inside Madeline (6:36)
7. Eden Prison (6:03)
8. Little Mouth (4:12)