Any Swans fans here? (Michael Gira, Jarboe)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Chris M, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    I'm surprised at the lack of Swans discussion in the archives here. I'm a relative newcomer to their catalog and I'm blown away. Probably the only music I've consumed that is truly unsettling and frightening. Of course, there are moments of great beauty and calm in places as well and Gira's poetry is up there with Cohen. I'm enthralled with the track "Blind" from the Various Failures compilation. Unreal atmosphere here. I should probably put on The Free Design afterwards to balence things out :laugh:

    Attached Files:

  2. TerryB

    TerryB Forum Resident

    Calais, VT
    I like the comment int the Trouser Press Record Guide that they don't sound like banging your head against a wall, but rather they sound like banging your head against a swimming pool...underwater.
    deredordica and One Louder like this.
  3. ralphb

    ralphb "First they came for..."

    Brooklyn, New York
    Swans was a band that I admired, but just found them a rough listen, which was probably the point. I mean, who listens to a record like Cop for pleasure? Bought everything up to Burning World and then gave up. Always thought of them as a performance art version of an extreme metal band, and I think a lot of sludgy type doom core (whatever) bands owe a lot to them. Got rid of the records a long time ago, maybe time for a re-listen.
    deredordica and GodShifter like this.
  4. seg763

    seg763 Forum Resident

    I have most of their stuff, and Jarboe solo, Angels of Light, some signed Gira stuff.

    They've had many stages, the pounding slow self-hating stuff that they are associated with was really only their first few releases (Filth, Cop, Greed, Holy Money), by 1987's Children of God they had evolved to a fully realized sound. The Burning World '89, White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity '91 and Love Of Life '92 are pretty sophisticated and run the gamut from delicate ballads to gothic hymm-like productions. 95's The Great Annihilator was as close to a mainstream rock record as they would come (mainstream like Helmet and Tool are mainstream). then 96's Die Tür ist zu and 97's Soundtracks for The Blind are another re-invention of the band, hard to describe, Krautrock Sound collages maybe? They reformed last year and 2010's My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky has gotten good reviews, to me it sounds more like a continuation of Gira's Angels Of Light Project.

    overall, I'd recommend

    Children of God
    The Burning World
    White Light From the Mouth Of Infinity
    Love Of Life
    Soundtracks For The Blind

    if you like Children Of God and really want to continue to the ealy stuff, continue with Greed

    Recommended side projects

    all three World Of Skin releases

    Blood, Women, Roses - (1987)
    Shame, Humility, Revenge - (1988)
    Ten Songs From Another World - (1990)

    the first two can be found on a rare cd comp called World of Skin - (1988)

    these three releases fit in perfectly with the late 80's early 90's swans releases

    Jarboe solo

    Thirteen Masks '91
    Sacrificial Cake '95

    Gira Solo

    Drainland '95
    What We Did '2001

    Angels Of Light
    How I Loved You '2001
  5. I like Raping A Slave.
  6. Edgard Varese

    Edgard Varese Royale with Cheese

    Te Wai Pounamu
    Chris, my old housemate was a big fan, and he played them all the time. I'm a fan of noise - hell I even own records by Throbbing Gristle - but Swans really just seemed too heavy and sludgy for me (and for everyone else living in the house at the time, for that matter :laugh: ). I should imagine most of what my housemate played was the earlier stuff that seg alluded to above.

    They were rather light around the time of Jarboe's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" but lordy didn't I want to switch the turntable speed to 78 when I flipped it over and played Gira's side. Children of God was not bad, all in all, but I kind of lost the thread after that.
  7. dynamicalories

    dynamicalories Forum Resident

    The Swans show I saw on the last tour was great. Mostly played the new album, but a few older cuts too.
  8. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Drum machines are not inherently evil.

    Austin, TX
    How unfortunate. You stopped listening right when they're started getting good :) I much prefer the sounds of White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity, Children Of God, The Great Annihilator, etc. to Cop, Filth, etc.
    Stencil, GodShifter and ArpMoog like this.
  9. Guy E

    Guy E Senior Member

    Antalya, Turkey
    The Swans played Maxwell's once when I was doing sound - they were on tour with Sonic Youth around the time of Bad Moon Rising. During the soundcheck Michael Gira demonstrated the impact he wanted the kick drum to have by giving me a couple of sharp palm-butts to the chest. It was pretty obvious this was his nightly soundcheck schtick. I made no attempt to push the sound system beyond it's natural limits in the 18x38 room.

    I have very few negative memories of musicians who played the club. Gira wasn't an egomaniac or a raging drunk or anything, but he was a jerk and I never explored The Swans music as a result. If that's my loss, so be it.
    Tokyo Ghost and bzfgt like this.
  10. hutlock

    hutlock Forever Breathing

    Cleveland, OH, USA
    I like all era of Swans' stuff, but yeah, the early material is a bit of a tough go. Angels of Light have made some really strong albums too.
  11. gohill

    gohill Forum Resident

    Glasgow, UK
    Brilliant band with immensely powerful music. M.Gira is a driven, complex and difficult man by all accounts so the story of him forcefully and physically demonstrating the impact he wanted on Guy does not surprise me. He works really hard on his music and record label and gives his fans some really great releases. Uncompromising is the word that sticks in my mind when thinking of Gira and his various musical projects. It's a shame that he views his sort daliance with a major label (MCA) which produced the Burning World album, with such distaste. That was a great record and a brave change of direction after the colossal Children Of God. They refined that sound more to their own satisfaction over the succeeding records White Light and Love Of Life. The new album is a brilliant record and i think seeing them live does ram home the distinction between Angels Of light and Swans.
    Front 242 Addict likes this.
  12. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    Swans are a sore spot for me, as I used to have a complete collection of all the first edition CDs and they all got stolen. I've NEVER been able to get most of them back. UK Product copies of 'Children Of God' - almost impossible to find. Original COMPLETE 'Greed' and 'Holy Money' CDs (the reissues edit songs out to fit them both on one disc) ALWAYS show up with trashed booklets. I may have been the only human on the planet who kept mine pristine. And don't get me started on 'Anonymous Bodies In An Empty Room.'

    The repackaging job on the Young God reissues is just dire and rather depressing. They put such effort into the presentation of the original records and Gira's new aesthetic sense just looks cheap.

    They were great while they lasted, though. And, say; howcum 'A Long Slow Screw' has never been issued on DVD?
    deredordica and marcfeld69 like this.
  13. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    I think the later stuff is where they got really interesting IMO. Their 90's output is far different than the first few records which for me are easier to admire than enjoy. Soundtracks For The Blind is a must. The track "Volcano" really stayed with me.
    Stencil and marcfeld69 like this.
  14. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
  15. imagnrywar

    imagnrywar Forum Resident

    San Francisco
    I tried to start a Swans thread way back in the way, but it didn't get too much attention:

    "Sex, God, Sex" from Children of God is still one of my favorites. That song could be three times as long and I wouldn't mind a bit. Essentially the same riff/beat for the entire song, but it never gets boring. Love, love the drums in that song.

    Soundtracks for the Blind is a fascinating listen for sure.

    As a side note, while the older CDs have the original versions of the releases (and not the mangled tracklists of the reissues), the reissues really do have far superior sound. The originals sound flat and lifeless in a bad way.
  16. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Do you guys think Various Failures does a good job of collecting the best material from White Light From the Mouth of Infinity, Love of Life and Burning World? It's such a shame those albums are out of print. Good luck finding copies under $70.
  17. motorcitydave

    motorcitydave Enlightened Rogue In Memoriam

    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    So it's industrial?
  18. akmonday

    akmonday Forum Resident

    berkeley, ca
    they do an ok job of stuff from love of life and white light, but Gira left most of burning world off, from what I remember, because he doesn't like it. It was produced by Bill Laswell and Laswell brought along his cadre of studio musicians (like the Public Image Limited album he produced around the same time). It was my first Swans album and since I was a Laswell fan at the time, it was a great introduction. I don't think it's their best but it's unfairly thought of as 'not really Swans' and deserved more tracks on that comp.

    White Light and Love of Life are incredible albums though. If you can find them in any form, give them a listen. I've owned the CDs over the years but sell them every time I get broke and need the money, unfortunately.
  19. Jeff K

    Jeff K Well-Known Member

    Eastern, PA. USA
    I don't know if I'd go as far as calling myself a 'fan' but I was into them for awhile 'back in the day'. They're definitely one of those groups I need to be in the mood for before listening to. Last year's My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky was one of my favorite releases of 2010.
  20. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    No. The track I posted ("Volcano") isn't at all representative of their sound. It's one of my faves though. Interesting that it uses a techno/dance beat in a context that has nothing to do with dance music.
  21. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member Thread Starter

    Baton Rouge, LA
    Thanks for that. I'll have to keep an eye out for used copies.
    Stencil likes this.
  22. seg763

    seg763 Forum Resident

  23. pcain

    pcain Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I have three albums by The Swans: Body To Body, Job To Job; Love of Life; and the Love of Life/Amnesia EP.

    My favorite Swans song is "Picture of Mary Anne" which was on the Love of Life/Amnesia EP. It is a beautiful, lush, wistful, slow song that gets stuck in my head whenever I play it. In '92 I remember being surprised that the band would put such a gorgeous track on an EP instead of featuring it on an album, but at the same time I thought it was cool that The Swans buried the track because it felt like that much more of a gem.

    I see that they ended up putting "Picture of Mary Anne" on the Various Failures compilation you own. Wikipedia shows the track time on the comp as 4:22, but it is 4:30 on the EP (04:29.86665 to be precise). Is the Wiki listing correct? If it is, I wonder how the track differs from the EP to the comp.
  24. Chalk me up as another one who more or less stopped listening to Swans around the time of The Burning World. Greed, Holy Money, and the related singles were in regular rotation during my high school and early university years, but after the rather flat cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and "Saved", I moved on to other stuff. I've meant to check out their '90s material, but one only has so much time and money (bastard). And I've never been too keen on Jarboe's vocals; she so often sounded totally off-key and I find that annoying, and if she's all over those albums I'm not so sure if I'd dig 'em.

    I recently picked up the comeback reunion reactivation album My Father..., but it hasn't really clicked yet. Will give it time...
  25. Damian72

    Damian72 Formerly Suede Pickle

    I've been a SWANS fan since the late 80s. I still have the GREED cassette (my first SWANS album) on the PVC label. I was just telling my girl how intimidated I was looking at the size of their discography at Tower Records so many moons ago. I now have all those releases. SOUNDTRACKS FOR THE BLIND probably gets played the most.

    SWANS played here a couple months ago and they were fantastic. Very powerful.

    I'm also big on Gira's solo and ANGELS OF LIGHT recordings. Jarboe has some very good releases under her belt but I have to be in a certain mindset for her brand of musical exorcism. I really like the album she did with NEUROSIS.
    Front 242 Addict likes this.

Share This Page